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27 October 2017

Does it work? Dual-zone climate control

By Matthew PritchardMatthew Pritchard

You hear it all the time in car-ads and reviews: 'dual-zone climate control' but have you ever stopped to think about whether it actually works?

Because I hadn't.

Seriously, I'm an advertiser's dream. They could put nearly anything in an ad and I'd just believe it.

When I was at uni I once sat in an advertising class that went through the ways that chocolate companies sell their product to you. Instead of walking out with a better understanding of how to read an ad I came out with a family block of delicious, creamy dairy milk chocolate.

I don't even remember buying the damn thing.

But that's not important. What is important is that when you think about it there's no way dual-zone climate control can ACTUALLY work, right?

Some cars will even let you change it to the half-degree! Not even your speedometer is that accurate.

I mean, think about it: the idea behind dual-zone climate control is that different temperatures can be set for differnet areas of the car, that is, the driver can have their heater maxed out, their passenger can do the same with their air conditioner, and the climate control will keep these two 'zones' separate in terms of temperature.

But how can that be? These controls say that you can set the temperature to the degree and some cars will even let you change it to the half-degree! Not even your speedometer is that accurate and it's supposed to be the most accurate instrument in there! How is it that a small space like the inside of a car can have one side be exactly 20.5 degrees and the other 29? It doesn't add up.

Think of the last reeeeeeaaaaaally long car ride you were on. Now think of how stuffy that car got. All that shared air mixing around like a big oxygen slushy (and not in like a trendy LA oxygen bar kind of way).

If you try and think about it logically there's no way you can have temperature 'zones', they've gotta be just a sort-of 'temperature placebo' right? Like... you feel a certain temperature because the climate control is telling you that you are.

This was a big enough topic of conversation in the CarsGuide and Oversteer office that Richard Berry and I decided to do a little bit of science* and figure out once and for all if dual-zone climate control can ACTUALLY work.

*NOTE: Neither Richard nor Matt are scientists, they just bought sweet lab coats so they'd look clever. Which they do.

Is there anything that you'd like to see Richard and Pritchard investigate next? Let us know in the comments below!