Story and photographs by Benjamin Greene
Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/AUTOS/BLOG/post/2012/01/24/paper-or-plastic-is-fine-just-no-drinking-while-driving-in-the-2011-dodge-charger.aspx
Once in a while, a new piece of car technology will come along that will have us grinning with appreciation; it’s just not very often that that technology can be found in the car’s cup holders. So, much to our chagrin, we found ourselves gushing over the heated and cooled cup holders in the center console of our 2011 Dodge Charger SE test car. It’s an interesting bit of technology that we haven’t seen in another production automobile (similar tech was actually in an Audi Q5 we had in our care, but we did not notice that particular feature). Although we did not get a chance to test the units in the Charger, we wondered if they could be as useful as they could be potentially dangerous. What would happen if you put a paper cup or a low-grade plastic into the cup holder when the heating element was on? What about a sealed bottle?
Amerigon Incorporated, the company that produces the cup holders, quelled our concerns. We spoke to John Terech, director of commercial development at Amerigon, who explained that the cup holders do not get hot enough to cause plastic to melt or paper cups to combust; in fact, he assured, many of the car’s tests were conducted with a paper Grande cup from Starbucks. He made clear that the heating feature is designed to warm its contents to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is below the 140-degree temperatures that can normally be found in a fresh cup of coffee. We can also attest that the temperature ranges offered by Terech are not too far off from the interior temperatures of a car on a hot summer day in Florida, negating any of our concerns that the cup holders’ heating feature could cause a sealed bottle to explode.
We had no reservations with the cup holders’ cooler feature, which is capable of keeping aluminum cans at temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and water bottles near 40 degrees.
Does a couple degrees difference make a drink any less refreshing? Yes, according to Amerigon’s web site, which points to an Associated Press article titled “Temperature Does Make a Difference in How Your Favorite Beverage Tastes.” It states that Coca-Cola is most enjoyed at 38 degrees, Pepsi at 42 degrees, and water at 55 degrees.
If the heated and cooled features weren’t enough, we found another aspect of the Dodge Charger’s cup holders to be quite interesting. The extra bottle holders near the doors’ map pockets offer a small seal warning against the use of open containers. Common sense tells us that this is just to assert the need for a closed container in such a precarious position, but its depiction of an open container—complete with straw and garnish—made us immediately question whether it was also an official message from Dodge against drinking alcohol while driving; Dodge did not reply to our e-mail.