The question of who was the first to offer air conditioning in their cars is a perennial favorite, but if you’re stuck for an answer, consider
this: Willis-Carrier, Packard, General Motors, or another car manufacturer? If you can answer the question correctly, you will have earned some bragging rights. Hopefully, these facts will help you decide who’s the best in this competition!
Willis Haviland Carrier is the man responsible for the invention of the first working air-conditioning system. He was a train platform engineer from Pittsburgh who had developed a way to control and dry the air. The invention of air conditioning in cars was such a huge breakthrough that it eventually resulted in a whole industry dedicated to air-conditioning repair. It is the inventor of the air-conditioning system who is responsible for the modern air conditioning industry.
The company began making air-conditioning systems in the 1920s and was founded by Willis Carrier. He was nearly laid off from the company, but managed to start his own air-conditioning company. This corporation would go on to design air-conditioning systems for some of the most important buildings in the United States. The company remained active until 1950 and was responsible for many other firsts in the history of air-conditioning. In 1906, Willis Carrier patented an apparatus for treating air. Throughout the following years, the company continued to tweak the design and make it more effective.
Willis is the father of air-conditioning. The invention of this technology changed the course of a century. It ushered in the modern era when many industries were made possible. People began to flock to movie theaters during summertime, when the air conditioning system would cool them down. His innovation was so revolutionary that it led to the creation of movie theaters and shopping malls. The invention of this cooling technology would become a fixture in American homes.
Willis Carrier is credited with designing the first air-conditioning system based on dew point control. The dew point is the temperature at which cooled air condenses and loses moisture through condensation. In 1922, Willis Carrier installed an air conditioning system in Grauman’s Metropolitan Theatre in Los Angeles. The air conditioning system was fed from the ceiling and exhausted through the floor. In the late 1920s, the first fully air-conditioned office building was constructed. A similar system was also installed in St. Louis.
Willis was only 25 years old when he created this cooling system, and he had recently graduated from Cornell University. While working for the Buffalo Forge Company, he continued to develop the idea and patented the cooling system. A year later, he presented the results of his work to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. It was Carrier’s genius that eventually lead to the invention of air conditioning in cars.
During the 20th century, cars became a worldwide necessity, and they have become an important part of modern economies. It was during this time that Willis Carrier, a textile mill engineer, invented the first air conditioner. By the mid-1960s, more than 70 percent of new cars had this feature. As a result, the demand for air conditioning grew significantly.
The first air-conditioned automobile was introduced by the Packard Motor Car Co in 1939. The air-conditioning equipment was placed behind the rear seat in the trunk, and treated air was circulated to the passenger compartment through ducts mounted between the seats. Once the war ended, air-conditioned cars became more widely available. Today, air-conditioned cars are standard on most new vehicles.
The air-conditioning system of Packard vehicles was provided by the Bishop & Babcock Mfg. Co. in Cleveland. The components were mounted behind the rear passenger seat, taking up valuable trunk space. They also chilled passengers’ necks. Eventually, the HVAC system was integrated into the dash. But the system proved inefficient and Packard dropped its offering after 1941. In response, other companies began offering air conditioning systems in their vehicles.
Although the first car company to offer air conditioning in cars was Packard, the feature was not widely available. Initially, only Packard offered factory-installed A/C, which was unsuitable for the average consumer. These systems required frequent servicing and were expensive. Later, the automotive industry began offering air-conditioning systems for aftermarket vehicles. But today, air-conditioned cars are standard in most cars.
As the luxury car market declined in the late 1940s and 1950s, the company struggled to compete in the luxury vehicle segment. It was especially difficult for struggling American consumers to afford such luxury cars. In 1953, Packard lost its contract with Briggs Manufacturing and Chrysler stepped in to provide a temporary solution. Production of Packard cars subsequently declined dramatically. And by the 1960s, no other luxury car manufacturer had air conditioning.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, many car owners installed aftermarket air conditioning systems to improve the comfort of their rides. These systems could cost as little as $200 and were usually installed in smaller cars. As time went on, improvements were made to the air conditioning system, making it quieter and more reliable. By the mid-1960s, the number of cars sold in the United States with factory installed air conditioning was over 70%. In addition to Cadillac and Buick models, some other car makers, like Packard, began offering HVAC in their cars.
After the war, GM and Pontiac began installing air conditioning systems into their cars. In 1954, Nash introduced a system that combined a heater and air conditioner in one unit, setting the standard for the modern in-dash AC systems. By the mid-1950s, seven more carmakers listed air conditioning as an option. Today, air conditioning systems are a common feature of nearly all cars, and many carmakers offer them as an option.
The first car company to offer factory-installed air conditioning was Packard in 1939. They advertised that their car was the only one of its kind in the world. The cooling coil was located in the trunk and connected to a fan blowing cold air into the passenger compartment. This system was also expensive to install, and was often subject to mechanical issues. After World War II, several car manufacturers offered factory-installed systems, which were rear-mounted.
A few years later, independent manufacturers began installing aftermarket air conditioning units into cars. These units were expensive and rarely installed in new cars, but they became popular in hotter climates. Aftermarket cooling options began to come down in price and became more affordable. A window-mounted evaporative cooler was popular in low-humidity regions. It required a plug to run and used water, ice, and a fan to cool the air.
The first production automobile was patented in 1886, and it does not have many of the modern car features that we enjoy today. It has only three wheels, no windshield, doors, a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, and no windows. There was also no A/C. Its passengers had to use large umbrellas for shade. Nevertheless, this was the beginning of the modern car.
After several years of development, Harrison’s first system became available for GM cars. This model was not fully integrated with the heater, but it was superior to Frigidaire’s system. It was quickly adopted across the GM line. Harrison eventually took over the automotive air conditioning duties for GM, and Frigidaire was left to home appliances. If you want to get cool, there’s no better way to do so than with air conditioning in your vehicle.