How Do Ice-Free Windshields Work?

Our windshields serve as our defense against outdoor elements while we drive. And in the freezing cold, the idea of an ice-free windshield becomes heaven-sent.

Ice-free windshields are not new. They have been around for years but the technology is yet to be perfected. The first units have wires all over the glass to heat up the surface and melt the snow away. As much as this is effective, the wires are distractions for the driver.


Still, windshield makers are experimenting with various materials to improve the performance and visibility of an ice-free windshield.


How does it work?


Basically, an ice-free windshield has a heating element that will melt the ice or keep it from building up on the glass surface. This is typically placed in between the two glass layers of the windshield.


An ice-free windshield is every driver in Europe and American is dreaming of. By pushing a button, it will thaw or warm up the surface so they can drive safely without worrying about ice buildup.


However, there are no mass-produced ice-free windshields yet. Only Volkswagen offers this technology as of today.

The start of ice-free windshields


Back in 1985, Ford released the Instaclear and Quickclear auto glasses, a coming of age technology that will keep windshields clear. There were wires compressed in between two layers of glass.


As much as the ice melting technology worked, it also interfered with the GPS systems, telephone antennas, and radar detectors. Experts found out that the magnetic field on the wires was the culprit.


Aside from that, the technology consumes a lot of energy. It will shut down after 10 minutes in operation.


Another problem with older ice-free windshields is that the heating system on one side of the glass would stop working. This will cause half of the windshield to have zero visibility – a driving hazard during winter.


Lastly, the said windshield technology messes up with tollway recording tags. To make it short, both the European and American markets didn’t bite the idea.


The improved model


Currently, Volkswagen offers an improved ice-free windshield. It doesn’t use wires and old technology. Instead, there’s a thin silver layer that will heat up and defrost the snow.


In one push of a button, the silver – which is highly sensitive to electrical currents – will heat up. So far, this is the biggest breakthrough in ice-free windshields.


Aside from defrosting ice, the silver layer is also effective in deflecting sunrays. This way, your vehicle will be much cooler. And unlike the older Ford technology, this one consumes very little electricity.


This is currently available on select models including Tiguan, Passat, Golf Sportsvan, and Sharon.


Ongoing research


Aside from the exclusive technology from Volkswagen, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan discovered a special coating that may end your scraping days.


The rubber-based coating can be applied to various surfaces like auto glass, airplanes, and other equipment. This is expected to be 20% more energy efficient than other technologies.

The iceophobic coating is still under study. Still, the initial application will be on food packaging before they turn into automotive parts.


With the advancements in technology, it wouldn’t take long before an ice-free windshield will