All the fancy technology automakers are planting inside our vehicles needs to be supplied from somewhere... like, say, Tier 1 automotive supplier Johnson Controls. The supplier is using the Detroit Auto Show to show off some of its latest wares, and it's packaged a slew of goodies in the hollowed-out shell of a Kia Soul and called it the ie:3 concept. The little 'ute has had all of its guts removed, with the drivetrain replaced by a 23-kWh lithium ion battery pack that sits beneath the floor, which Johnson Controls estimates is good for a 100-mile range.
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. See for yourself in our high-res image galleries below, and read all the details in the press release after the break.
Live photos copyright ©2011 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL