Johnson Controls (JC) rolled out its ie:3 demonstrator at this year's Detroit Auto Show. The ie:3, which showcases JC's six-inch thick 23-kWh lithium ion battery pack in the hollowed-out shell of a Kia Soul, demonstrates that electric vehicles need not sacrifice interior space to accommodate for a needlessly oversized power supply. The ie:3's li-ion battery, which features 216 prismatic cells, is positioned in a manner that allows for a completely flat interior layout, but JC claims it is powerful enough to provide 100 miles of range. Additionally, the ie:3's seats fold flat, adding to the vehicle's versatility by creating a significant amount of cargo room.
The IE in ie:3 stands for Inspired Efficiency, and the 3 means there are three main benefits to the design: delighting buyers, allowing automakers to differentiate their products and expanding sustainability. All that may be more a bit of marketing fluff, but there's at least some substance to the claims. For instance, the single-piece stamped seats save lots of space, allowing the reclining rear seats to be mounted higher than the fronts. Also notable is the so-called FaserTec seat pads that are made from natural fibers and are easily recyclable.
More innovation can be found in the vehicle's headliner, which acts as a large speaker that frees up storage space where the door-mounted speakers would normally be found. However, perhaps the coolest bit of tech is the Human Machine Interface, consisting of a transparent heads-up display that rises from the dash, a 6.5-inch transflective display that doesn't wash out in direct sunlight and another 8.8-inch central display that can be controlled either through a touch interface or a haptic controller mounted on a sliding rail between the two front seats.
It's all pretty impressive, and, despite the fact that it's got so much technology baked in (plus an entire battery pack under the floor), Johnson Controls has still managed to substantially increase interior space. Does the ie:3 typify the future of electric vehicles? Hit up the high-res image gallery of JC's concept and drop a comment below.