Did you wash your hands before getting in your car? You may not think about it, but by not washing your hands, you’re covering everything you touch with germs. Many of these microscopic organisms can do damage to both your immune system as well your car’s interior too. Certain forms of bacteria can cause materials inside a vehicle to become discolored or smell putrid. That’s why Ford has partnered up with the University of Michigan to study which parts of a vehicle are the dirtiest, and the results may not surprise you.
Engineers from Ford’s Research and Innovation Center have joined forces with a research team from U of M to see firsthand how these germs grow in the interior of a vehicle. The parts of an interior that are most infected you ask? Out of the 10 locations swabbed for the study, the steering wheel, radio buttons, door handles, window switches, the area around the cupholders, and gear shift knobs are the most contaminated, with the steering wheel and cupholders leading the pack. The study has shown that a vehicle’s interior doubles as an intricate ecosystem that’s responsible for trillions of different bacteria, and you’re touching it all.
Keeping your vehicle’s interior clean, or at least feeling like it is, is big business in the United States. On average, Americans spend more than $2.3 billion annually on air fresheners that include aerosols, plug-ins, and other miscellaneous deodorizers. On top of that, we spend more than an additional billion dollars on products that combat germ growth. Since it’s obvious neither of these products are really doing much, the research team from Ford and U of M has pushed forwarded tinkering with other products. Most vehicles far outlive an antibacterial product used inside so the team had a bit of a challenge on their hands.
To combat this problem, the team focused on three different products; silver-ion, ammonium salt, and polyolefin wax with a nano-silver coating. The silver-ion has already been fused with paint and sold under the name Agion, which slows the growth of bacteria better than what automakers currently use. Agion works by surrounding the germs and doesn’t give the microbes a place to breathe and grow. The research team simulated many years of hard use with Agion and found the product to hinder microbe growth quite effectively. This coating is currently being scrutinized at Ford for future consideration in vehicles.