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Volkswagen Working on Ice/Fog-Free Windshield

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On: Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 4:49PM | By: Chris Weiss

Volkswagen Working on Ice/Fog-Free Windshield

The rate at which companies solve problems that don't really exist while leaving much more pressing problems untouched has always perplexed me. In vehicles, for instance, we have cushy options like heated seats, lumbar support, and cruise control, while more basic, important problems remain completely unaddressed.

Volkswagen is taking a slightly different approach, addressing an elemental vehicle problem. Its technology won't be nearly as cool or flashy as heated memory seats, but it could prove much more useful to actually driving. The automaker is working on an ice-free, fog-free windshield coating that could eliminate two of the most irritating visibility impediments on the modern automobile.

We've all experienced it on cold or rainy days. You're driving along at 60 mph on your local highway when suddenly the windshield begins to fog. Rapidly. You switch the defogger on low and quickly realize that isn't cutting it. You quickly punch it to medium, then high. Then open the windows to increase ventilation a little more. And you're left speeding down the highway freezing your tail off (seat warmer and all) and contorting your body in desperation, trying to see enough of the road out of the tiny, fog-free piece of glass just over the dashboard. As someone who frequently drives in cold, snowy, foggy, inclement weather, I sometimes have to stop completely to mop up the thick, dripping fog that clings to my windshield. In short, fog can be one of the greatest banes to any commute.

Well, if Volkswagen's new technology works out, fog and its outside counterpart, ice, may be things of the past. In conjunction with the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Technology, VW is experimenting with an indium tin oxide coating for windshields. The coating is designed to keep heat from radiating off the windshield and causing the cooling that results in fog and ice. Volkswagen is currently testing out the coating on vehicle windshields and says that it has had success in temperatures down to 0 F. The coating doesn't necessarily completely eliminate fogging and icing, but it has been effective at significantly limiting them.

Like any great problem-solving technology, the indium tin oxide coating isn't without its side effects. So far, its metallic compostition has proved an interference with radio reception and electronics. The coating's effectiveness is also altered by such factors as humidity, cloudiness and wind. In other words, it's not quite ready for the market yet. But hopefully one day, we'll be able to get up on any winter day, start the car without ever scraping any ice off and drive to our destination without worrying about fog.

VW plans to install the coated windshields on vehicles across its brands including Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi.

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