Johnson Controls' re3 concept rethinks the interior

  • 29-Jan-2009 05:02 EST
Johnson Controls's interior concept re3 is a plug-in hybrid electric car that stows its 96 lithium-ion cells (each producing 22 A·h) between the front seats.

Some of the advanced technologies showcased in a concept interior unveiled by Johnson Controls at the 2009 North American International Auto Show are said by the company to be production-viable.

The interior of the re3 shines a spotlight on surfaces minus the usual concealments. "You actually see the exposed natural material," said Danny Larsen, who led the design team for the Johnson Controls' re3 project. "By not covering that with a cover stock, which is typically done in production, we have a mass reduction of the surfaces using the fibrowood panels of 30%."

In a production application, the natural material fibrowood would need a protective coating. "We have two different viable alternatives that we can use for coating the fibrowood to help protect it from scratching and from staining as well as to help reduce the amount of sun fade over time. We're probably midway through the development process as it relates to UV stabilization," said Larsen.

The seats use a leather alternative that is made from an oil derivative. "It is more environmentally friendly vs. a traditional leather," said Larsen. Johnson Controls' re3 features a conversational seating design. The front passenger seat (which has a thin-profile seatback) can slide to the rear-seat area and virtually occupy that space since the slim-profile 60/40-rear seat can fold up.

"When the (front passenger) seat is in the rear-most position, it creates a triangular footprint for the remaining three seats and that allows for a few scenarios. For instance, parents can tend to a child in the rear seat much more easily and safely, or three adults can sit comfortably and interact with each other without the typical barrier between the first and second (seating) rows," said Michael Warsaw, Johnson Controls Vice President-Design and Marketing in North America.

Infotainment controls are accessed via an extended cluster comprised of two separate reconfigurable displays: a 4.3-in center cluster screen and an outboard-mounted 7-in display; the latter uses capacitive-touch technology.

Johnson Controls is supplying dual instrument cluster displays in the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrid sedans, but those displays do not have a capacitive touch interface. "The content represented in this (re3) extended cluster is based around our connectivity portfolio, Mobile Device Gateway, hands-free speech interface, Music Management, and Mobile Commerce," explained Rodger Eich, Johnson Controls Studio Manager-Electronics Design Studio.

Johnson Controls, in partnership with Visa, tapped technologies to enable "secure financial transactions from your vehicle," said Marni Epstein, Johnson Controls Electronics Marketing Manager. By placing a Visa credit card or a wallet containing a Visa credit card on the vehicle's embedded card reader, the re3's Mobile Commerce system facilitates onboard buying of goods and services. "The system is not storing the data and only when you approve the financial transaction will it actually happen," said Epstein.

The re3 also features the Ecospace instrument panel structure. "We don't have a traditional center stack. And because the radio controls were displaced into the extended cluster, and the HVAC controls were put into the seat wing, it creates a new storage opportunity within the driver's reach. And that, combined with the Esospace technology—which uses a thermo-molded plastic/metal hybrid instrument panel structure—means the total instrumental panel storage volume is 150% greater than on an average vehicle in this segment. As a feature in this new storage space, we've implemented our Mobile Commerce system and our Mobile Device Gateway, which allows interfacing with any consumer handheld device over a standard USB port," said Larsen.

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