All Electric Cars: What will they look like in 2015?

January 25, 2011

Concept cars come standard at the Detroit Auto show, and most of them are blue-sky visionary platforms that don’t make much of a ripple in what you and I actually see on the road.

The ie:3 is hopefully, different. It’s an all-electric demonstration model from Johnson Controls, which is a leading manufacture of battery and electrical technology.

Dubbed ie:3, the car is a five-passenger all-electric car that includes Johnson Controls-Saft batteries in the car’s floor. The battery pack’s design uses less space, allowing more room for storage than other electric vehicles packed with batteries, the company says.

The car’s target range is 100 miles per electric charge.

Seating enhancements incorporated into the vehicle include stadium seating that enables the floor of the passenger side to accommodate a suitcase when the seat is up. The rear seats fold flat to the floor for increased storage.

“We wanted to provide interior and battery solutions for smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles without compromising functionality, comfort or spaciousness,” said Beda Bolzenius, president of the automotive experience business at Johnson Controls, in a statement.

From the looks of this model, the knock that hybrids and electrics will be cramped and uncomfortable seems like a thing of the past.

I was taken through the technology by Michael Warsaw, a vice president of design and marketing. The car started life as a Kia Soul, but it’s been transformed into a very lightweight and generic B-segment electric car with 23 kilowatt-hours of prismatic batteries in the (flat) floor. If it were produced, it would likely have a 100-mile range. 

The lightweight natural fiber seats in the Johnson Controls car are cantilevered to fold up and create storage both front and rear. “We’ve found that in emerging markets, the rear seat is really a premium position,” Warsaw said. “And that’s one reason we’ve incorporated a 45-degree recline into them.” The fabric lid on the dashboard and door pockets is also very lightweight and adds more storage.

Just about everything on the car slides out of the way if need be, including the shifter and main command console. Like a kid’s puzzle, it can all be arranged to suit the driver. You might raise questions about meeting safety standards with applications like that, but Warsaw assured me everything I was seeing meets current laws. Airbags and seatbelts are part of the package.

A pop up and adjustable heads-up display (incorporating speed and other vital information) is reflected off a curved piece of glass and floats in the driver’s view of the road ahead. A display screen replaces the traditional instrument panel, and also the entertainment center, which uses a 6.5-inch “transflective” cluster display that looks good even in harsh sunlight. During my tour, Howling Wolf was playing on the Blues Station through those invisible headliner speakers.


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