Founded in 1963, IQAir is one of the oldest air purifier brands around. Their high-end (and high-priced) units are manufactured in Germany, which makes them stand out at a time when most other brands have moved manufacturing to China.
I immediately became a big fan of the IQAir Healthpro Plus when I reviewed it in 2021, although it’s not cheap to buy or run, with filters costing up to $200 per year.
The IQAir Atem was released in 2017. It is aimed at people looking to use an air purifier in the car or as a portable unit for their desk.
At $399.99, it costs the same as some larger air purifiers we have reviewed, so it’s not cheap, but we had high expectations and wanted to see how well it performed at keeping the air inside our car clean.
There are two versions of the IQAir Atem, the Atem Desk and Atem Car, both priced at $399.99. The only difference is that the filter used in the Atem Desk can’t deal with gasses but the unit can be plugged into a traditional outlet — the car model uses the car DC power outlet.
- In our home lab of 728 cubic ft, we light an incense stick to generate particle pollution and VOCs.
- We set up our trusted Purpleair Indoor Sensor with the latest Bosch gas sensor to track levels of PM1ug/m3, PM2.5ug/m3 and PM10ug/m3 and VOCs in the air.
- We switch the air purifier to its highest speed and measure how long it takes to get our room air quality down to PM1 level to 0.
- For portable air purifiers, we repeat this test inside our Tesla Model 3 to see how good the unit is at cleaning the air in a small enclosed space.
- We use an energy meter to measure precisely how much electricity is used when running the unit at the lowest and highest fan speed settings.
- We track sound levels emitted by the air purifier at different fan speeds with the help of a commercial sound meter.
TL;DR The lowdown on the IQAir Atem Car
If you don’t want to read my full review, here are my key findings to help you figure out if the IQAir Atem Car is the right air purifier for you:
What we really like
What we think could be better
Cost per CADR is a hefty $22.66 in comparison the Levoit Core 300 is 68 cents!
On paper, the IQAir Atem is a low-powered unit compared to traditional air purifier designs. Still, it’s entirely designed for vehicle use — with seat attachment and 12-24V DC power cable.
You can see the full breakdown below:
|Time to clean our Tesla Model 3:||37 minutes|
|Time to clean our test room:||1 hour and 55 minutes|
|Air purifier technology:||HyperHEPA Plus Filter|
|Recommended room size:||150 sq. ft. for car mode|
|Clean air delivery rate (CADR):||Speed 1: 7 CFM (12 m3/h)Speed 2: 12 CFM (20 m3/h)Speed 3: 39 CFM (66 m3/h)|
|Dimensions (in inches / in cm):||17.7H x 9W x 17.7D inches (29H cm x 29W x 10D cm)|
|Weight (in pounds / in kg):||5.2 lbs (2.4 kg)|
|Noise level (low – high):||35dB – 55dB|
|Filter life:||1 year|
|Manufacturer’s warranty:||2 years|
|Estimated energy consumption:||$3.15 per year|
Clean design that fits a modern car
As you can see, IQAir has gone for a modern design that will fit well in most vehicles, moving away from the clunky beige design we see with their larger units (and in other portable air purifiers).
Most of the car air purifiers we recommend have to be placed somewhere inside the car, but the IQAir Atem offers a few different options for where to put it.
The first and top option is to use the straps to put it in place around the headrest of the driver or passenger seat. In this way, it doesn’t take up any space and can be easily adjusted by passengers in the back.
Sadly, this way of securing the Atem is not as effective in a Tesla Model 3 because the headrests don’t have the normal rails. This didn’t deter me from strapping the Atem to my seat but, while it did fit, it wasn’t fully secure.
IQAir also recommends strapping it in an empty seat in the back. This isn’t perfect, as it uses up a full seat, but it’s a good option for those with headrests that don’t work with the IQAir Atem design.
When we compare the IQAir Atem to other portable units, you can see it’s much bigger and far less portable than other car air purifiers:
Similarly to some of the portable air purifiers, there is no screen on the Atem. Now, what I wasn’t expecting is for the lack of physical buttons: everything is done with one touch by presing the Atem logo that sits in the center of the device.
You will hear a sound when pressing the logo, but I found it was hard to hear it when there was a lot going on or the kids were in the car with me. That is why I ended up using the app to adjust the fan speed a lot more often than the button.
Powerful HyperHEPA Plus filter
The car version of the IQAir Atem comes with IQAir’s famous HyperHEPA Plus filter that can clean the air from pollutants as well as gasses and odors. This is essential when driving on highways or roads with high levels of traffic pollution.
When you take the filter out of the IQAir Atem Car you can see where that $400 was spent.
The sizeable filter takes up a lot of space in the unit.
The HyperHEPA filter is clearly of high quality, similar to what is used in IQAir’s larger models. I was surprised at first to see a small, cheap-looking carbon-like filter on one side, but I realized that this was just a filter to protect the fan and isn’t used to clean the air.
The Atem Car’s HyperHEPA Plus is $10 more and includes gas filtration technology. The regular Atem Desk filter only includes HEPA without the ability to clean the air from odors and gasses.
The filters are easily removed once you click the button on the back of the device near the power cord.
Many air purifiers will ship their HEPA filters in plastic, so ensure you remove them before starting the unit, or it won’t work.
The Atem cleared our Tesla Model 3 in 37 minutes
Similarly to other portable air purifiers, I tested the IQAir Atem in two different environments: the interior of our Tesla Model 3 (around 97 cubic ft.) and inside our 705 cubic ft. test room.
In both cases, I first used an incense stick to fill the space with smoke pollutants. Then, I recorded how fast the IQAir Atem could clean the air while running at its top fan speed. As usual, I did this by measuring PM1.0ug/m levels in real time with the help of our industrial quality air quality sensor from PurpleAir, which uses the latest Bosch BME680/688 gas sensor.
It’s worth mentioning that before running this test inside my car, I ensured all internal fans in the Tesla Model 3 were switched off. The results of this test are based on running the IQAir at its highest possible fan speed while being plugged into the car:
Air cleaning performance test results
I expected the IQAir Atem would be faster than other portable units that we have tested like the Smart Air QT3. Still, I was impressed with how fast it could clean our Tesla Model 3 of particle pollution. See the comparison below:
When comparing the performance of the IQAir Atem to small corded air purifiers AND portable air purifiers cleaning the air inside our home lab, I was actually quite pleased to see how well the Atem faired:
Noise levels test results
The standard noise levels are very quiet on speeds 1 (35dB) and 2 (45dB) and you often forget that the air purifier is running. I changed the fan speed in the app to 100% and the noise is pretty noticeable at this speed (55dB), so I can understand why this is not the default.
Overall, the Atem runs a little louder than the Smart Air QT3 at both its lowest speed (35dB vs 32dB) and highest speed (55dB vs 49dB)
The cost to run an IQAir Atem: $93.14 per year
For a small air purifier, it’s not a cheap unit to run — it costs much more than other portable purifiers, due to the high price of its HyperHEPA plus filters.
1. Electricity costs = $3.15 per year
Like other small, portable air purifiers you can use inside your car or other vehicles, the IQAir Atem doesn’t use much energy. Our meter reading test showed that it pulls just 3.4 watts when running at its highest fan speed.
Assuming we run the IQAir Atem for 24 hours a day every day (365 days) non-stop, it would still only use $3.15 worth of energy.
2. Filter costs = $89.99 per year
Similar to the larger IQAir units, the filter costs associated to the IQAir Atem are much higher compared to other portable air purifiers. The HyperHEPA Plus Filter costs up to $89.99 per year and the HyperHEPA Plus costs $79.99, but it cannot deal with gasses and odors.
At the point of writing this review, no generic filters are available for the IQAir Atem Car, so you will have to stick to genuine IQAir filters. The only problem is that IQAir filters seem to be unavailable on Amazon, so you will need to get them directly from IQAir.com. Not as convenient as I would like.
The IQAir Atem is the best car air purifier on the market right now.
Yes, it isn’t as affordable as other portable air purifiers. Yes, the filters are not available to buy on Amazon and are quite expensive too. But one cannot deny the sheer air cleaning power of this device.
Those looking to save money would be better off with something like the Smart Air QT3 or the Westinghouse 1804.
But the IQAir Atem is my top pick for a car air purifier for those of you who drive through highly polluted highways and roads every day, and who have a good budget to spend. You won’t regret buying an air purifier from IQAir.
We calculated energy consumption costs with the help of the Department of Energy’s appliance energy calculator. We calculated yearly costs associated with running IQAir Atem Car for 24 hours a day for 365 days. We ran this calculation utilizing the U.S. average utility rate of $0.12/kWh as of October 11th, 2023.