When buyers in North America think about looking at electric cars such as the VW ID.4 or the all-new VW ID.Buzz van, they are quick to wonder about one season in particular: the winter. Why is this? Well, it’s well known in EV circles that the winter is really the “definitive” season to analyze when it comes to determining how strong an offering an EV is.
The cold weather diminishes battery performance, and adds pressure on heating systems, which is why it matters so much on an electric car with an already carefully limited and calculated single-charge range.
Despite all this, fans of the Volkswagen ID series are now asking new questions, namely about the opposite problem to winter and heating, and that’s the idea of cooling. No, we’re not talking about air conditioning in today’s blog, but rather the rather useful summer-friendly feature of ventilated seats.
Do any of the cars in the VW ID lineup have ventilated seats? If so, are they standard or optional? Are ventilated seats even worth it? We’ll tackle these questions and more in today’s blog.
What are Ventilated Seats? How Do They Work?
If you’re doing a custom configuration for a new car online, it’s quite common to see ventilated seats as an option. They’re not always standard, in the same way that heated rear seats are rarely (if ever) standard, but they are a common-enough option. But what exactly do they do? Are they different from so-called “cooled seats”?
Ventilated and cooled seats are very alike in their main function, which is to provide a more comfortable environment for drivers and passengers, especially up front and especially on long drives, which of course are quite common in the US market. The main difference is the method through which they achieve the cooling effect:
- Ventilated seats make use of fans that are installed in the seat bottom and back, which blow air through ducts which then circulate air through the seat and upholstery. This cools the seat occupant in a similar way to which a fan tray can help to cool your laptop down.
- Cooled seats are a little more advanced, making use of a refrigerant that is added in to make that air deliberately colder. Think “AC coming out of your seat bottom and back”.
While the cooled seats seem to offer more, most buyers have remarked that even in the hottest places in the country like southern Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, ventilated seats combined with the car’s regular AC or other environmental control system is more than sufficient to get the job done.
If you live in a climate such as this, ventilated seats can certainly make a huge difference to your comfort level. As is often the case with such upgrades, it’s one of those things that’s hard to appreciate until you experience it for yourself and feel the difference.
Do Any Volkswagen ID Cars Have Ventilated Seats?
The US market currently only has the ID.4 electric SUV model available, with the ID.Buzz electric van getting ready to go on sale in the US in the coming months. As things currently stand, there is no option for ventilated seats in any of Volkswagen’s ID models.
This is despite the fact that a number of their competitors have already started to offer ventilated seats as a luxury option, including corporate family members like Audi.
Even when one explores the far greater extended family of ID models in the European market, ventilated seats are not among the optional features. Heated seats come as standard in virtually all VW ID models and trims, with some even having optional heat pumps.
Winter is still being prioritized it seems, which in continents like Europe and most of North America makes a lot of sense. Not everywhere gets the perma-spring/summer weather of southern California, after all.
What’s a little strange, however, is that Volkswagen does offer ventilated seats on 4 of its models available for sale in the US:
- Volkswagen Jetta – SEL Premium
- Volkswagen Atlas – SEL Premium
- Volkswagen Jetta GLI – Autobahn
- Volkswagen Arteon – SEL Premium R-Line
So we know for sure already that Volkswagen is capable of offering this, but why not in the electric vehicle ID family? Since VW are competing with the likes of high-end brands like Tesla, you’d think they try to install every advantageous feature that they could, but it seems that this hasn’t been their overall approach.
Climate Control Systems
With most features focused on efficient heating for the winter months, what do Volkswagen ID models offer their owners for the hotter months? The fact is that Volkswagen ID cars do come with multi-zone climate control as standard on most trims, allowing the system to offer great comfort for the interior of the car even in the hottest conditions.
When it comes to design and engineering, in fact, cooling isn’t a problem. As we have talked about in previous articles when we explored VW ID models and heat pumps, the bigger problem for electric cars is heating, and not cooling. Why is that?
Put simply, an electric car lacks an internal combustion engine as an obvious source of heat for the vehicle to use. Without that engine, other more power-draining solutions like resistance heaters had to be used.
Now, however, with heated seats and even heat pumps in some cases, most drivers are finding that their EV heating needs are being met, even in the coldest parts of the country such as the Midwest and Northeast. Cooling is not a problem since the electrical system can easily power the components and electronics required to make a state-of-the-art cooling system for the vehicle.
Therefore, ventilated seats are perhaps considered too much of a luxury when the car itself is already expensive enough without them.
Can You Get Ventilated Seats Retrofitted to a VW ID Vehicle?
So what if you don’t have ventilated seats in your VW ID.4 but you want to get them? The obvious choice might seem to be just to get a newer model in the future that comes out when Volkswagen either sees the light and offers them, or when costs come down, allowing more room for other options and upgrades. But who knows how long that will take?
For those wanting a more immediate solution, there does appear to be a great retrofitting solution in the works. One particular thread on the vwidtalk.com forum offers very encouraging results. One user, JohnnyforElectric — inspired by another YouTuber, “Paul from DAP,” DAP referring to Deutsche Auto Parts — has managed to successfully get the controls for ventilated seats to show up on his ID.4 digital control interface:
Without wanting to get too technical, Johnny was inspired by Paul from DAP’s video that pointed to certain controls on the VW Golf Mk8 that were similar to one might expect should the ID.4 have ventilated seats. After some coding work, and a system reboot, he managed to get those same controls to appear in his VW ID.4 electric SUV.
This, however, was only the first step, with the next being to purchase ventilator fans to install in the driver and front passenger seats, which would then have to be wired into the car’s J979 Heating and Air Conditioning Control Module.
This is the part that requires more research. Johnny started his work in January of 2022, with the latest update at the time of writing coming in August 2022 where another user pointed out that the 2023 VW ID.4 should have the kind of hardware they need built in to make it happen.
Ventilated Seats: Yay or Nay?
If you’re planning on purchasing a VW ID.4 in the next 1-2 model years, it seems you will be disappointed by a lack of ventilated seats no matter how high on the trim ladder you climb. However, it does appear as though the 2023 model year could be the one where modders and retrofitters like Johnny get what they need to finish their projects.
This could make a retrofit possible and safe. The software side is sorted, which in many ways is the harder part, and now they just need that key hardware.
But do ventilated seats even make sense? Are they even worth it? If you live in a desperately hot climate and frequently take long drives in that climate, then it would appear that ventilated seats are a good investment.
However, if this is such a dealbreaker, it might not be worth waiting for Volkswagen to get its act together on the subject. Instead, look to another EV brand that offers them as an option:
- Chevrolet Bolt EUV (2022 onwards)
- Tesla Model S/X (2020 onwards)
- Kia E-Niro (2019 onwards)
- Audi e-tron, and e-tron GT (all)
- Audi Q4 e-tron GT (all)
- Jaguar I-Pace (all)
- Porsche Taycan (all)
- Hyundai Ioniq 5 (top trim only)
- Polestar 2 (all)
They should also be available in Hyundai Kona models, as well as in the Lexus UX300e, and the DS 7 Crossback e-tense. Stay cool and stay safe out there on the electric road!
Related Reading: Can VW ID Vehicles Use Tesla Superchargers Yet?