Is Air Conditioning Coming to a Helmet Near You?

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I got an interesting email today from a startup company with a “revolutionary” new helmet concept. No, it wasn’t that motorcycle helmet startup, but the aftermath of Skully does make anyone wanting to swim in this space drip with a bit of radioactivity.

Instead in this case, Feher Helmets hopes to bring air conditioning to a helmet near you. To do this, Feher takes a relatively simply concept, and applies it in a way that no one else is doing in the market.

The Feher ACH-1 is pretty simple, though I am sure the technology behind it takes a bit more skill and engineering to execute. As you would expect, the cooling unit is a small and efficient heat pump, which turns hot air into cold, and then pushes it into the helmet shell.

Using air channels and mesh fabric (note the lack of air vents on the shell design), the cool air then moves around the rider’s head, where it obviously lowers the head’s surface temperature.

The head itself is one of the better heat exchangers on the human body, with it accounting for roughly 7% to 10% of our body’s cooling capability (higher figures that are often quoted have been debunked, mind you).

Riders can choose to either power the air conditioning unit with a battery pack, or with the shown power cord tether, which plugs right into the bike’s battery (Feher supplies the battery harness). Pricing on all this is set at $599, though there is an introductory sale of $549 right now.

The technology behind the Feher ACH-1 comes from the company founder, Steve Feher, who is credited with bringing similar cooling systems to automobile car seats.

Assuming everything we just wrote is true (we’ve reached out to Feher Helmets to get our hands a demo helmet model), there are some serious hurdles for the Feher ACH-1 to overcome.

The first major issue is the very nature of the Feher helmet. Motorcyclists are quite particular about what they put on their heads (or don’t put on their heads, as the case may oddly be).

As such, companies innovating in this space face their biggest hurdle in that they are not an established helmet brand like AGV, Arai, Bell, HJC, Shoei, etc.

This also comes with the disadvantage of entering a very mature market with a product that hasn’t had the opportunity to be refined over many generations into what consumers expect.

We have seen other brands entering the helmet space face this same problem (6D, Skully, and Sena come to mind), while they try to innovate where the traditional helmet brands have refused.

Of course, there are problems more specific to the Feher ACH-1 itself, namely the added weight of the heat pump system on the back of the helmet. Feher claims a weight of 1,450 grams (+/- 30 grams).

It’s not clear in what size this weight is taken at, but it is hard to imagine the ACH-1 being lighter than traditional helmets, at any size point. To put this weight in a frame of reference, the featherlight AGV Pista GP R weighs 1,510 grams on our scales in a size large.

Consider us intrigued…or skeptical…on this weight claim.

In fact, that confusion of emotion is our overall take on the Feher ACH-1, until we can see it, touch it, and wear it for ourselves. We do know this, the motorcycle helmet market is stagnate and ripe for disruption.

Motorcycle helmet manufacturers make their money by keeping their basic helmet designs the same for decades at a time. They are not technology companies, and motorcycle helmet safety principles haven’t really changed since before the Nixon administration.

But, helmet manufacturers have strong brands, with loyal owners.

We hear them talk about “Arai heads” and “Shoei heads” when it comes to helmet shapes (this author wears both just fine); AGV sells out of its Rossi replica lids every year; and companies like Bell and HJC have done well by partnering with other strong non-endemic brands.

It is hard to sway a rider from their helmet of choice. Hopefully Feher is in it for the long-haul…or posts like this spur another brand to license/acquire the technology (with the caveat that it’s any good). As always, time will tell.

Source: Feher Helmets