Precious metals have been a part of automotive technology for decades - from gold-plated electrical connections, to catalytic converters that rely on platinum and palladium. This year, Volkswagen announced a new innovation: windshields that use silver to defrost in winter and reflect heat during summer.
Usually, self-defrosting car windows work by using the heat generated by electrical filaments embedded in the glass. While effective, the filaments can be seen when lit from certain angles – hampering visibility for the driver. Volkswagen’s climate windscreen provides perfect visibility by heating up without the use of any filament wires. Instead, the windshield incorporates a transparent layer of silver sandwiched between laminated glass. Because silver is the most electrically conductive metal in the world, a small current is enough to uniformly defrost the entire windshield in seconds.
Volkswagen also claims that the layer of silver reflects up to 60% of infrared light from the sun. This should keep the interior cooler during summer months… if you don’t factor in the sunlight passing through the non-silver windows, that is.
The climate windscreen is an optional upgrade for Volkswagen's Golf, Golf Sportsvan, Tiguan, Sharan, Passat and Passat Variant models. Pricing starts at $365 – but since bigger windshields contain more silver; the final price is model dependent. Volkswagen hasn’t announced how much silver they use to make their climate windscreens, but we can guess. If we consider the current price of silver and assume the manufacturers’ cost is around $300 for plain windshield glass, there may be up to 3 ounces of silver in each windshield. But, since the silver is so thin that it’s see-through, the actual amount is probably much less. If that's the case, then we probably would not accept the windshields for refining; we would consider this to be low-grade material.