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Better, Cheaper Heated Winter Jackets

Winter can be very cold, limiting mobility. The way to make Winter mobility enjoyable is light, affordable, well-insulated heated jackets.

Photo of John M Smart
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Michigan Central Station

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Winter can be rough. To really improve mobility outdoors, Northern State residents need lightweight, affordable, well-insulated, heated clothing. The most important Winter clothing element is a good, lightweight, warm e-heated jacket, with all-day e-heat in the chest, back, and arms, and lots of pockets.

The better the insulation, the less heat you need. I used one of the newer (DeWalt) heated jackets in Winter last year in Michigan, with a hood to keep my head warm, and a good pair of unheated gloves. This jacket helped me enjoy being outdoors, even on the coldest, windiest days. The battery is good for eight hours of outdoor use, so you charge it nightly at home. 

Unfortunately, today's heated jackets are still too expensive for many inner city residents, and no inexpensive installment payment financing is available for those with limited incomes. The Ororo (picture above) with heat in the chest, upper back, and arms, is one of the more affordable ones, $140 at Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/ororo-Womens-Heated-Battery-Detachable/dp/B019C4QU2G

That is half what they used to cost, but these can get even cheaper, and the City can help with financing plans (such as underwriting zero-interest financing, and paying the first months payment) for residents with limited income. A good Winter jacket is as important as electricity in the home. We need to make them accessible to everyone.

Perhaps Ford, Detroit, and our Northern City Mayors can get together and subsidize a Public Design Competition, circulated to all the Design colleges, for better, more affordable versions of these jackets.

Here are ten things I'd like to see in a Better, Cheaper Heated Winter Jacket:

1. More insulation, to make the jacket poofier and lighter, and allow less batteries for all-day heating.

2. A thermostat, so we won't have to fiddle with the jacket's heating controls, when we go into and out of buildings. That is such poor design. These jackets could easily sense the temperature and  give the right amount of heat for all conditions.

3. Heating around the neck, and in the back and sides of the hood, and an oversized hood, with a draw closure, and a mask pocket. A Heated Hood like this would keep your face warm most of the time even without a mask, even in wind.

4. Heated pockets, so we can quickly get our hands warm again if we have take our gloves off and our hands got cold. 

5. A Trench Coat version, that will keep you even warmer. 

6. Big Glove Pockets on the front, with magnetic closures, not buttons or velcro, so we can easily access and store our gloves. I've only seen one jacket with such closures so far. They are very convenient.

7. A lot of batteries in series, distributed around the bottom of the jacket, rather than one big battery (almost all jackets today). That way, the jacket hangs better, and the battery never pinches your back when you sit down or drive. It's never in the way.

8. A Charging Dongle at the back of the jacket, so can recharge at night WITHOUT having to take out the battery. Almost all heated jackets today still require their users to take out a single, big battery, and put it in a charger, to charge it at night. That is so disrespectful of people's limited time and energy.

9. With a charging dongle at the back of the jacket, you can attach it to your Pedelec Trike, so it will recharge your jacket while riding (See https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/detroit/explore/shared-pedelec-trikes

10. Besides a charging dongle, a good jacket should have inductive charging, and a wall mount. Your electric toothbrush has it (a small ring and nub system, at the bottom of the toothbrush). It is easy to add that to a jacket, on a flap at the back of the neck.  The jacket user will then not even have to fiddle with plugging in the jacket at night (very helpful for those with limited mobility and vision). They can just hang their jacket on their charging hook on the wall by the door or in the closet, a hook attached by wire to a power outlet. Add charging LED lights to the jacket and you'll never worry about dead batteries again.

There are a small number of startups with heated jackets on Kickstarter today, but no one has yet developed a product with more than *one* of these features, or figured out how to produce it and/or finance it cheaply, for everyone who would like better Winter mobility.

Contact me at johnsmart@gmail.com if you'd like me to work with you on making this happen!





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Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

John M Smart  Another interesting idea! What do you think are the major hurdles to making these jackets more affordable? Do you see a cheaper solution coming soon? Also, how do you envision that these heated jackets will transform mobility in Detroit?

Photo of John M Smart

Hey Mackenzie!

Affordability is a great question. Entrepreneurs globally will have their own ideas for that.
Whether we get a cheaper solution soon or later may depend on how much incentive we give to entrepreneurs, and whether they can get venture capital. The TAM (total addressable market) seems huge for this. In one scenario, someone with political influence might champion this idea, fund a market study, send a bunch of the best current heated jackets to Northern mayors and leaders to try for free (after getting their size) and get someone to offer a financing plan for them for those with limited income. Even if the version I described cost $200 each, that would not be a problem for many residents if low-interest financing were available. I'd love to see a City smart enough to pay the interest on a $10/month installment plan for purchasing these jackets, and advertise that on billboards around the city.

Their use would scale rapidly once people really know about their benefits, and costs would drop according to Wright's law for automated production lines (usually between 3-10% drop in cost with every doubling of production of any standardized product).

In another scenario, unfortunately a much more likely one, this idea will sit around for a number of years without a champion, until someone finally makes the version I outlined. That version seems so convenient its demand will very likely start to take off on its own, even without a lot of promotion. Most great ideas get done in time, but in my experience it often takes great strategy and execution to get good ideas done when first doable.

As for how these jackets would transform mobility in Winter in Detroit, I think that people would spend a lot more time outdoors, walking or riding. I'd bet the average person would spend 5X more time outdoors in Winter, enjoying themselves and each other a lot more while out in natural environments. I'd argue they are the best money you can spend on urban mobility in northern cities today, as they give the greatest personal freedom to get around outside, in Winter. Most every other Winter mobility solution is also subject to being comfortable in the cold, at least during transitions, so this solution helps most of the others work a little better or a lot better, like Pedelec Trikes.

Photo of Boratha Tan

John M Smart I personally would see myself being more open to using electric scooters, ride share bikes, etc. if I had heated winter jackets! (sorry, had to share my personal opinion)

Photo of John M Smart

Great to hear it Boratha! Me too. I think heated hoods will turn out to be a particularly welcome innovation. We'd have to cover our faces a lot less often in Winter with better heated hoods, which means we'd see each others' expressions a lot more, which is great for connecting emotionally with others in our communities.