Ford patents method to eliminate 'new car smell' from vehicles

Ford has patented a method for eliminating the "new car smell" from new cars. It seems like an odd move given the popularity of a new car's odor, something many air fresheners have attempted to replicate, but the automaker has a single good reason for its madness: China. The aroma of a newly deployed vehicle isn't popular in the nation.

Though the so-called "new car smell" is popular in the US, past surveys and research have found that Chinese buyers primarily dislike the aroma. This has driven Ford to seek methods for eliminating the smell, which is often cited as more important to buyers in China than gas mileage and safety features.

The USPTO lists a patent application filed by Ford Global Technologies in November 8, 2018. The patent, which is titled "Vehicle Odor Remediation," describes a method for detecting and eliminating volatile organic compounds, which are responsible for that new car smell. The method would work to speed up the rate that VOCs are eliminated from the car.

Simply put, the distinct smell of a new vehicle is the result of leather, plastics, and other components off-gassing. This off-gassing happens faster in warmer temperatures, which is why a hot car may have a stronger aroma than a cold interior. Depending on the ambient temperature, it can take several months for the new car smell to go away and be replaced with the user's preference.

Based on the patent description, it appears that a large part of Ford's method is simply applying heat to speed up the off-gassing process, reducing what would ordinarily take several months to a shorter time period. The patent states, in part:

The method can include executing a VOC removal operation including at least one of following actions: (1) opening at least one window of the vehicle; (2) activating at least one of a vehicle heater and a component heating element; (3) activating a fan; and (4) running an engine. The method can further include recording one or more parameters related to the VOC removal operation, wherein the one or more parameters includes at least one of: a period of time for the VOC for at least one of the actions of the VOC removal operation; a temperature of an interior of the vehicle at one or more times during the VOC removal operation; and an intensity of sunlight measured by a sensor in the vehicle during the VOC removal operation.

The patent suggests that the VOC elimination process may be at least partly automated. The document describes a computer being used to turn on the vehicle, trigger its heater and a fan, then roll down the window. The system could also be designed to measure how many VOCs remain in the vehicle, determining whether the odor has been sufficiently removed.