This year, Electrolux is celebrating its 90th anniversary. The ambition for the company has always been to provide innovations and products that improve people’s quality of life.
While some companies let engineering and technology drive innovation, Electrolux puts the consumer at the center of all its innovation. All of this has been possible thanks to Electrolux ambition to listen to the consumers’ wants and needs. With the help of interviews and visits to households on a large scale we receive essential insights on consumers’ lives and their constantly changing consumption patterns.
This is some of the products and innovations from Electrolux that have made life easier for consumers over the years:
The Model V – putting maids out of work (1921)
Previously, vacuum cleaners were bulky stand-up units and not easily portable. The Model V however was designed to lie on the floor on two thin metal runners. This innovation, conceived by Electrolux’ founder Axel Wenner-Gren, became a standard feature on generations of future vacuum cleaners. In fact, after the Model V, all Electrolux vacuum cleaners were designed to lie on the floor.
The model was such a resounding success that Swedish maids protested when it was launched. Now, virtually anyone could clean the home.
The D fridge – the end of explosions (1925)
The first Electrolux refrigerator was a cooling machine that converted heat to cold through a process of absorption, the Model D fridge could run on electricity, gas or kerosene. It also required a water source and a drain. The cooling medium was ammonia, which unlike other cooling substances used at the time was not prone to explode under pressure.
Baltzar von Platen and Carl Munters, two very well known Swedish engineers, developed the Model D process during their studies at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Electrolux president Axel Wenner-Gren subsequently made an offer and based the whole of Electrolux’ future on the success of this new refrigerator.
The air fridge – refrigerators enter middle-class households (1931)
Refrigeration technology was further developed and refined in the 1930s. The problem with the previous Model D fridge was that it needed a power source as well as running water to function. The new air fridges, the L1 stand-alone unit for example, used air to cool the ammonia, thereby making it much more flexible and independent of a source of water. By the late 1930s, a refrigerator was a standard piece of equipment in most middle-class households.
The Assistent – kitchen machine that is still produced today (1940)
Semi-professional and heavy duty, the Assistent was launched in Sweden as a motorized kitchen helper. At the time it revolutionized food preparation. The sales argument was: “The Assistent saves money while making the most of the food a family has.”
Between 1945 and 1949, the product was so popular there was a three-year waiting list. For people with muscular disabilities or arthritis, a doctor’s order could speed things up, however.
The Assistent is still produced, although not by Electrolux anymore. There have been some design and technical developments, but the present model is very similar to the first one.
The City Box freezer – compact living a la 1950s (1956)
The most important trend of the 1950s was in the food storage segment. Refrigerators rapidly grew larger, and for reasons of operating economy were gradually forced to shift to compressor operation. The result of the transition was apparent by the late 1950s, when the brand new tall refrigerators were introduced. They were combined appliances with refrigerator, freezer and cool compartments. The increasingly fast-growing deep-freeze industry created demand for freezers, and Electrolux introduced its first in 1956, the City Box.
The SP 111 refrigerator – a substitute of the cellar (1959)
Electrolux learnt that consumers wanted a cellar or pantry-type cabinet in their new apartments. Since there wasn’t space for one in the new modern apartments, it was instead incorporated into the fridge. Therefore, the SP 111 included a refrigerator at shoulder height, and underneath a cooled cabinet for storing items like jams and juices – items that traditionally would be stored in a cellar.
The D 10 dishwasher – “the round tin” (1959)
The D 10 was not only Electrolux first dishwasher. It was also the world’s first countertop dishwasher, and could be installed in most modern kitchens at the time without the need for major kitchen renovation. Its nickname at the time was “the round tin.” The cylindrical unit could wash the dishes for a family of five in just six minutes.
Luxomatic Z 90 – new generation of vacuum cleaners (1964)
The Luxomatic Z 90 was the first of a new generation of vacuum cleaners that included features like a cord winder, self-sealing paper dust bags, and a dust indicator that showed when the bag was full – real innovations in other words.
The greatest innovation was a rubber membrane on the paper bag that meant that once dust was sucked up it was never to be seen again. Before, dust had to be emptied by hand from cloth bags. This was a real revolution.
The CF 69 Pyroletic Oven – 20 years before its time (1969)
The Electrolux CF 69 Pyroletic self-cleaning oven was years ahead of its time. It could clean itself by heating up to 300 degrees Celsius to basically burn off anything that had spilled in the oven. Because of this function, the oven could not have a glass and see-through door as was the vogue at the time, and still is. Today, most ovens are self cleaning and have windows.
The CF 780 – stove with a built-in microwave (1975)
At a time when microwave ovens were very exclusive devices, the CF 780 oven had a microwave function inside it. The combination was intended to save space in the kitchen, but to accommodate the microwave the CF 780 was 10 centimeters wider than the usual oven. However, the poppy red unit could cook a frozen ham in half the time it would take in an ordinary oven.
Datalux stove – held food at constant temperatures (1975)
The Datalux included a small computer-assisted temperature sensor that could be programmed to hold food at different temperatures, thereby allowing cooks to do something else. It actually sensed the temperature in the pan.
ALC – washing machines got smarter (1986)
When the Automatic Level Control System (ALC) was launched in washing machines, it was the biggest news the industry had seen in 30 years. The ALC made it possible for the washing machine to self regulate the amount of water it used depending on the size of the load. In so doing, water and energy consumption could be diminished by around 30%.
The ALC became standard on all front loaded washing machines. ALC was also the first in a row of environmentally friendly innovations by the Electrolux Group.
The Trilobite – the world’s first automatic vacuum cleaner (2001)
The Trilobite was the first automatic vacuum cleaner on the market. Measuring only 13 centimeters high and with a diameter of 35 centimeters, it can navigate under beds, tables, and other furniture. The “eyes” allow it to navigate using sonar (acoustic radar that works with ultrasound), just like a bat. When the batteries run low, Trilobite by itself returns to the charging station to recharge. If the machine needs charging before it has completed the cleaning, it will automatically resume cleaning once it is fully charged.
The second generation Trilobite was launched in 2004.
The Ultra Silencer – listening to consumers meant making a quieter vac (2003)
Consumer research showed that people wanted to be able to vacuum at night, when children were sleeping. The busy lifestyles of working mothers and fathers with children meant that people wanted quality time with children and still cared about clean, healthy homes.
The result was the quietest vacuum cleaner ever made. While most vacuum cleaners reach 78 decibels, the Ultra Silencer has a noise level of only 72 decibels. Because the decibel scale is exponential, this reduction means that the audible sound of the Ultra Silencer has been halved, two times. One can even whisper and be heard. Or clean and not wake up the sleeping children.
Consumer research showed that cleaning behavior had changed – consumers clean limited spaces instantly instead of large spaces on a regular basis. Therefore in 2004, Electrolux developed the Ergorapido – a combined handheld and upright vacuum cleaner that is battery driven and beautiful enough to leave outside the cabinet.
The Ergorapido created an entirely new premium market segment for “instant cleaning”. A second generation was released in 2007.
The Iron Aid Dryer – the dryer that relieves consumers of their worst chore (2006)
The Iron Aid Dryer was the first steam tumble dryer on the market. In addition to being an excellent clothes dryer, the steam function minimizes wrinkles and reduces the need for ironing. The refresh cycle also deodorizes delicate and “dry clean only” garments, including silk or wool.
The Inspiro – the oven does the work at the push of a button (2008)
The Inspiro oven is one of the smartest ovens in existence. Rather than just measuring the air temperature with a thermometer and regulating it with a thermostat, the way a conventional oven operates, the Inspiro oven uses sensors to calculate the precise combination of energy consumption and time needed to bring the food to the correct temperature. It also chooses the cooking mode (baking, grilling, convection) or combination of modes needed and specifies the proper rack be on.
The chef’s job? Just load the oven and push a button.
The UltraOne – the rethinking vacuum cleaning (2009)
Aiming to improve the entire concept of vacuuming, the development team looked at every detail to make the UltraOne combine top cleaning performance with low noise levels. Designers were inspired by the air soles in running shoes when selecting the new, soft materials for the wheels. The new ergonomic handle offers several different handling positions in to ensure ease of use. The performances is top class and the noise level is hard to believe – a mere 72 decibels.
Calima – a unique new washing machine with built in drying board (2009)
Electrolux learnt that a majority of consumers experience difficulties with drying their laundry. They put their wet clothes on the floor, hang them on radiators, and for a quick dry, the hair dryer or the iron is the most commonly used. As a result, we invented Calima – a washing machine with a pull-out drying board for a safe and easy drying of even the most delicate garments such as silk and cashmere.
The drying board, fitted on top of the machine, has several programs including wool and delicates. It is flexible and can be extended to cater for larger items such as woollen sweaters, jeans or towels.