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The cup holders

I am sure you have seen all these people going out of their cars with the gigantic Starbucks coffee right ?

Key question : how do they do to not spill their drinks everywhere in the cars ?

One answer : the cup holders. Not 1, not 2 but loooots of cup holders in the cars.

So much to say about it.

Let’s dig a bit

Up to 19 in car… yes 19 cup holders

You might not believe me and you think that I am exaggerating or that this is only in cars modified by die hard cup holders fans ? Nope, this is a standard version of a 9 seat Subaru. Even my little 2009 Honda FIT has like 6 accessible cup holders for the 2 front seats…

Apparently, we are reaching the top era of the cup holder design. I am sure you did not realize how lucky you are.

How did it all start : my preliminary conspiracy based scenarios

A few of my thoughts :

  • Scenario 1 - a conspiracy between the drinks and the automotive industries → the automotive industry developed differentiation adding cup holders in cars and at the same time they invested into drive-through (the other way around works)

  • Scenario 2 - a conspiracy of the medical industry → they would actually be behind the implementation of the scenario 1 so that they would sell drugs to treat diabetes caused by the sweet drinks held by the cup holders.

No conspiracy between industries - it is all about food and drinks and being practical

The first introduction of car cup holders came from the development of drive-in and drive-through restaurants and theatre in the 20’s, it was just convenient to have something to hold the drinks so you can eat and drink while in your car*. One thing leading to another, the automotive industry started to implement built-in cup holders in the 60’s.

In 2007, cup holders became one of the key criteria for car purchase process, before gas consumption - no comment.

The cup holders - not a simple piece of equipment to design

I am sure you have never looked at how complex it might be to write the specifications of the cup holders of your car (I am a bit geek sometimes, I know). Think about all the functions the cup holder has to fill :

  • holding all type of size of drinks - not to strong, not too loose

  • coping with the road challenges, speed, brake …

  • being accessible to all type of human being

  • using as less space as possible

  • being easily cleanable

  • not compromising safety

  • not compromising access to other car controls

  • being not too ugly

  • enabling differentiating your car from other car .

The first patent on cup holder was filled by Ford in 1953… I am telling you this is a key differentiator for the automotive industry and they knew it early on !

And now I am tempted to launch a patent landscape study to know more about the automotive industry will be coming up with in the next few years...

Cup holders everywhere

A little reminder on where you can find cup holders :

  • While exercising : bike, treadmills

  • While walking : on strollers, on supermarket carts

  • While hanging out : sofa

  • Unclassified : umbrella, suitcase, crib,

So based on that

A little game with Google search :

- type 'cup holder' --> 450 millions of results

- type 'porte gobelet' --> 5 millions

*Little parenthesis on that : while I believe cup holders are really practical for long drive and for coffee holding during their commute, I still do not understand why they need to eat in their car on the parking lot while there are seats inside the restaurant. I will explore why later…

A few links

Up to 19 cup holders

Cup holder designs in the world