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How Do Heated and Cooled Cup Holders Work

How Do Heated and Cooled Cup Holders Work

Several cars now come equipped with heated and cooled cup holders, but have you ever wondered how they work? Well, we did too, and so we went to find some answers.

Heated and cooled cupholders use an insulated liner and one or more thermoelectric devices to actively control the temperature of liquids. The active nature of this system makes it far more effective at temperature control than relying on insulation alone.

This may be a simple answer, but there is a lot more that goes into heated and cooled cup holders! So keep reading to learn more about them.

What are Heated and Cooled Cup Holders?

As a relatively new concept that has mainly been adopted by luxury vehicle brands, heated and cooled cupholders are still a bit of a mystery to many consumers. What makes them work?

How does the temperature stay consistent? And, how does the temperature heat up safely inside a vehicle? 

Well, heated and cooled cupholders are safe, and they heat or cool your cup holders so you can maintain the proper temperature to keep a hot coffee warm and a cold soda cooled.

How Do They Work? 

Though the console is plastic, it is safe from being burned because the heat is contained in the heating element. These heating elements are situated inside of the console near the cup holders and receive an electric current when you turn the heating or cooling function on.

When the electric current is activated, the heating element will heat the cup holder so that your drink stays hot, or it will keep it cold so that your drink won’t get lukewarm. 

This heating element will not stay on while the car is off, or if you choose to press the button to stop the electric current. Also, the two cup holders work independently of each other. 

This means that you can have a hot drink with the heat on the left, and a cold drink being cooled on the right for your passenger. This is a growing option for car buyers to have, and with more cars coming with it, there might be more in the future. 

Are Heated Cup Holders Safe? 

Well, with anything that involves heat, there is some element of danger involved in the misuse of the product. That goes for heated cup holders as well. 

If the button is switched on, then the cup holder begins heating up right away. If you were to touch the inside of the cup holder, you can get burned!

Also, if you use the cover by placing it over the cup holder opening while the heating element is active, this could lead to overheating. If it overheats, you could end up with some damage to your cup holders, middle console, or more. 

You will also want to ensure that you do not place any heat-sensitive items inside the cup holders when the heating element is active. If you do this, then the heat will likely burn the item and possibly cause damage to your vehicle. 

However, many of these issues come from the misuse of the cup holder or an accident. So, if you ensure that you take the proper precautions, then you should no problem with the heated cup holders.

What Temperatures Do These Cup Holders Stay At? 

Well, each model of vehicle can be different because the manufacturers are all different. So, the temperature may vary from vehicle to vehicle. 

However, with there being some basic temperatures to stay at when heating or cooling a drink, all of them will be close to that of the vehicle we look at. 

For the sake of an example, we will take a look at the temperatures of the Chrysler 300C, which is one vehicle that comes with heated and cooled cup holders. 

Chrysler 300C Cup Holder Temperatures 

This luxury vehicle is one of the few cars that currently comes with heated and cooled cup holders, so this is a great option to test the temperatures. 

What you will notice at first is that you will feel the heat and coolness coming from the cup holders just moments after you start the system. This is a good sign when it comes to the ability to keep the hot drinks at a high temperature and the cold drinks cold enough so your ice won’t melt quickly, if at all. 

But, when tested with a thermometer, the exact temperatures were shown to be better than expected. The cold side was used for a water bottle and the temperature registered at about 48 degrees. 

This is cold enough to keep the water cool, and it can be used for all types of refrigerated drinks to keep them nice and cool. Whether you have a soda, water, iced tea, or frozen lemonade, this temperature will keep it cold and stop anything frozen from melting too quickly.

Now, since you can already feel the heat coming from the cup holder, it should be expected to be a high temperature for hot drinks like tea or coffee. 

When the thermometer was used, the temperature registered at just over 113 degrees. This is perfect for hot coffee and will work to keep your drink hot for the whole ride to work. 

Though the temperatures might vary slightly between the heating and cooling systems in each vehicle, it should be expected that all of them have similar temperatures as this one. If not, it may not be heating or cooling your drinks enough to make much of a difference. 

Can You Add Heated and Cooled Cup Holders to Any Car? 

Well, though this might be something that you hope to add to an older car or a new one that just doesn’t offer it, it is not a system that you can put in yourself aftermarket.

This might be a sad thing for some vehicle homeowners to hear, but just because you can’t add the whole system to your car, there is another option to use. 

If you want to add a single heated or cooled cup holder to your car, then you can purchase an individual holder that fits inside your existing cup holder. This option plugs into the cigarette lighter and can be used the whole time you are driving.

These cup holders fit inside the cup holder, but they will not take away any space for a large cup because it opens up for larger drinks at the top. These can hold soda cans, bottles, and fast-food drinks. 

These can be found for heating and cooling, so you could have both in your vehicle, though you will have to only use one at a time. 

Issues with Added Cup Holders 

Besides the fact that you will only be able to use either heating or cooling at once, there are some drawbacks to adding one of these cup holders to your vehicle. 

The first is that these are not made with the same durability and sturdy construction that the heating elements in vehicles are, they won’t last as long. This means that you could be buying a new one every few months if you use it every morning since it will likely stop working after a short time.

And, because it contains a heating element, there is a chance of overheating. Since this comes with no safety features, as it is a low-cost option, it might not be as safe as having a built-in option. 

There is also the fact that the drink sits up higher than it would if it was placed inside the cup holder of the car. Because the added holder fits inside the existing one, the drink will sit inside the raised holder and come up higher in the middle of the car. 

This might not be a big issue, but this does mean there is a higher risk of knocking it over. When you have a heated object that has a higher chance of falling over onto you or your vehicle, this is not a viable option. 

Conclusion on Heated and Cooled Cup Holders

With newer luxury cars coming out with more and more ways to feel comfortable in a vehicle, the addition of heated and cooled cup holders is an expected new addition. However, with these cup holders being relatively new, most people don’t know how they work. 

So, with this article telling about how they work to heat and cool your drinks, what temperature they stay at, and that they are safe, you now know all you need to decide if you want a car with these cupholders. 

Also, with the detailing of the issues with added heated and cooled cupholders, you can see that adding ones to your existing cup holders is not the best idea. So, take this information to make your final decision.

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!