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Automotive air-conditioning is a high impact technology where improvements in energy consumption and environmental performance can make a significant difference in fuel efficiency and comfort. The mandatory phase out of R134a as refrigerant in the European Union has set the stage for new systems and alternative refrigerants. While some of these refrigerants, such as R152a or R290, have a low Global Warming Potential, their flammability requires secondary loop systems to be used. The added thermal mass of such systems may increase power consumption and delay cool down while benefitting thermal comfort during start/stop operation. The recent revival of electric vehicles, as well as the associated focus on air-conditioning energy consumption, provides new challenges and opportunities.

This research focuses on the performance evaluation of refrigerants R152a and R290 during transient operation in secondary loop systems, quantification of thermal storage benefits for start/stop operation, and investigation of energy saving potentials in electric vehicles through the use of advanced air-conditioning system controls and cabin preconditioning.

A test facility was built to dynamically test secondary loop systems over a wide range of pull down conditions and drive cycles using a passenger cabin model and associated controls. It was shown that R290 is a viable alternative in secondary loop systems and system performance may be on par or better compared to R134a direct expansion systems. The preservation of cooling capacity and thermal comfort during off-cycle periods were quantified for a secondary loop system, as well as a combined ice storage system. System efficiency increases with longer off-cycle periods compared to direct expansion systems. Advanced compressor control strategies and the use of cabin preconditioning can make use of this characteristic and improve energy efficiency by more than 50%. Ice storage may be used in combination with cabin preconditioning to preserve comfort for an extended driving time with reduced use of the vapor compression cycle. A Modelica model of the secondary loop system was developed and validated with experimental data. The model enables dynamic simulation of pull-down and drive cycle scenarios and was used to study the effects of coolant volume and coolant concentration on transient performance.