Johnson Controls' ie3 demonstration concept shows how stretch fabric, a headliner with integrated audio, as well as other interior and electronic technologies can radically alter future production vehicles.
"We're showcasing 32 patent-protected innovations that are ready for production application in model year 2015," Michael Warsaw, Vice President of Design and Marketing, North America for Johnson Controls Automotive Experience, told AEI after the world debut of the ie3 at Detroit's 2011 North American International Auto Show.
Stow spots on door panels, seatbacks, and the upper instrument panel (IP) are dressed in a lightweight woven material stretched over a frame. LEDs illuminate the area underneath this mesh fabric.
"We're doing lab tests for all of the various safety concerns because it is a new material application that we envision being used in conjunction with airbag deployment. Johnson Controls is working with textile manufacturers to find appropriate coatings for the fabric that are robust enough for automotive usage," Warsaw said.
Door panel inners are void of audio speakers because the ie3's headliner and trim panels double as a soundboard. "Transducers are integrated within the headliner," Warsaw noted, adding that the vehicle's audio performance is optimized by digital signal processing technology.
When sunlight hits the 6.5-in "transflective" instrument cluster display, "it doesn't lose its color or its contrast so it's unnecessary to have a hood over the display or sink the display into a cave-like position," Warsaw said. The cluster display moves up and down with the adjustment of the steering column.
A display screen positioned off the center dashboard is used for the operation of navigation, radio, and HVAC. "This transflective 'floating' display screen features a resistive touch panel that incorporates a row of fixed buttons for the HVAC controls that visually appears as one seamless display panel," he said.
The driver also can interface with the 8.8-in dashboard display by using the capacitive-touch controller/gear shifter unit located in the top deck of a dual-level center floor console. Sliding tracks enable forward and backward movement of the multicontroller, cupholders, and an e-bin for wireless recharging of handheld mobile devices.
A steering wheel stock switch engages a transparent head-up display (HUD).
"Instead of a traditional HUD that uses the windshield to display information, this HUD uses a separate piece of optical glass that stows within the IP until it's activated into an upright position," Warsaw explained. A similar Johnson Controls-supplied HUD is on select Peugeot vehicles in Europe, but the ie3 vehicle's HUD differs from the production offering by showing turn-by-turn navigation and other information in full-color graphics.
The ie3's rear seats adjust to a lounge position via a manually controlled mechanism. "We're able to get a 45º recline, and the cushion has extra tilt because it also moves backward," said Warsaw.
Next-generation battery packs—stowed under the floor—supply power to the all-electric demonstrator vehicle. According to Alex Molinaroli, President for Johnson Controls Power Solutions, the ie3 uses 216 prismatic lithium-ion cells.
"This is a real step-up from a standpoint of how well we're able to package the batteries," said Molinaroli.