The re3, a small plug-in hybrid electric concept developed by Johnson Controls, is somewhat of a contradiction in execution: there are raw fiber-wood panels coexisting with polished LED electronics. But it's not about contrast. Rather, it is about what's right.
"There's a certain beauty in the minimalistic approach," says Michael Warsaw, vp Design & Marketing for JCI's North American auto division. "It's everything you need but not more than you need. And that's the essence of pure and lean, taking it to the minimum, but doing it in a way that you don't feel like you're missing something."
What is missing is plastic injection moldings so common to vehicle interiors. Rather, there's the more raw compression formed "fiber-wood"-a mixture of natural and wood composites-as cockpit surfaces and panels. JCI basically took the current production substrate material and left the cover stock off, which cut weight about 30%. To some consumers, the design may look like Home Depot, but perhaps not to the eco-class. "When you combine it with leather alternatives, chrome details, soft-touch zones in the top of the instrument panel, and the seat wing, we feel it turned out pretty handsome," Warsaw says.
|JCI's re3 ("re:think, re:new, re:spond") concept plug-in electric has little real estate for the lithium ion batteries, so it filled the center console with them.|
The "seat wing" he's referring to embeds the HVAC and audio controls into the driver's armrest, which also are accessible to the passenger. An added bonus of moving those controls from the IP is increased storage: a total of 26 liters worth in the glovebox and secondary storage bin. The focal point is an IP-centered 7-in. display, while a 4.3-in. screen is cluster mounted. The screens include "touch-and-flick" action allowing the driver to do just that with navigation, messaging and vehicle diagnostic data.
JCI avoided the typical arrangement of placing the lithium ion battery pack under the back seat or stuffed into the tunnel. Instead it's packed under the front center console. The Johnson Controls-Saft battery, a 96-cell, air-cooled lithium ion variety, has capacity of about 8.2 kWh and 50 kW discharge. In theory, that's enough to give the re3 around 20 miles of electric range.
How close to practical is this concept? If an OEM was so inclined as to produce a variation of the re3, JCI says it could be ready by the 2012 model year.
Compressed "fiber-wood," JCI's substrate material covers the glovebox and secondary storage unit for mobile devices, which is created by placing the HVAC and audio controls in a driver's seat armrest.