Of the various vehicles that were displayed at this month’s Detroit Auto Show, undoubtedly the biggest crowds were drawn to the cars with the most striking exteriors – witness the Porsche 918 RSR, for instance. Given that we drive our cars from the inside, however, isn’t the interior what’s most important? That’s what Johnson Controls seems to believe, as its ie:3 demonstrator vehicle showcased a number of the company’s innovations for vehicle interiors. According to Michael Warsaw, Johnson’s VP of Industrial Design and Marketing for North America, “Everything that you’ll see in this vehicle is ready for the next generation of automobiles.”
The “ie” in the car’s name stands for “Inspired Efficiency,” and the conversions made to the unassuming Kia Soul were done almost entirely in the name of maximizing cargo space and ergonomics, and minimizing weight.
To demonstrate how its technology could be applied specifically to electric vehicles, Johnson Controls also equipped the ie:3 with its Saft lithium-ion prismatic cells. These flat, low-profile batteries are located along the length of the vehicle, underneath its floor, where they take up a minimum amount of interior space.
Mobile phones and other devices can be placed on a wireless charging dock, where there won’t be any cords getting in the way.
Kilograms were also shaved by combining long glass fibers with thermoplastics for a high strength-to-mass ratio in main structural elements, along with the use of wheat straw-reinforced polypropylene in the instrument panel, doors and floor console. Compressed natural fibers combined with a polypropylene film were used in some of the nonstructural elements.
Much of the interior was also upholstered in a decorative mesh, instead of heavier leather or vinyl... definitely a weight-saver, although it’s hard to say how well a mesh interior would stand up to the rigors of real-world use.
“Lightweighting” is, needless to say, a huge component of EV design – the lighter one can make a car, the more range and/or oomph it can get from a given battery and motor. Given its battery capacity of 60 amp-hours and total energy rating of 23,700 watt-hours, combined with its lightweight interior construction, Johnson Controls estimates the ie:3’s range at approximately 100 miles (161 km).
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