Do Cabin Air Filters Combat COVID-19?
Cabin air filters in your car have been around for awhile, but recently companies promoting their ability to filter out the coronavirus have appeared. Is this even remotely possible?
According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, China’s Geely rolled out the Icon SUV in February, claiming its Intelligent Air Purification System (IAPS) was N95 certified, the filtration level necessary to block CV. Before the vehicle’s digital launch was over, 30,000 pre-orders were received.
For an air-purification system to achieve CN95, it would need to reach 95 percent efficiency, the same as N95 masks health care workers use. Geely claimed the advanced filters in the Icon’s air-conditioning system had 95 percent efficiency to the 0.3-micron level, in addition to a bactericidal layer meant to inactivate and kill the virus. Really? Could even the most advanced cabin filtration system keep the virus out?
The SAE warned that effective ambient filtration would require pressurizing the cabin with HEPA-grade filtered air, much the same as what the airlines are claiming. But Geely admitted its cabins aren’t entirely sealed, and the moment the door or a window is opened, unfiltered air can enter.
Modern cabin air filtration was first commercialized in 1957 in Germany by the Freudenberg Group. In 1989, the company began producing cabin filters for Mercedes-Benz, which led to annual sales in the millions and the position as the market leader in filtration. What we can’t see is CV flying around from someone coughing or sneezing, and unfortunately, the particle size is at the one-micron level that can be inhaled, making them especially dangerous.
High-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, is best when it’s used in stationary applications like hospitals or industrial plants, not vacuum cleaners or other household products. Similarly, HEPA doesn’t work in automotive applications because air filtration in cars can’t be too restrictive or it will impede passenger comfort. Thus far, there are no verifiable lab tests to accompany any claims, nor are there rules as to how these filters can be applied for optimal results.