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Johnson Controls Rolls Out I3 Plug-in Hybrid Concept Car

Concept car is platform for numerous innovations including demonstrating the company's plug-in hybrid battery technology pictured here.

Published: 14-Jan-2008

DETROIT, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to delivering innovative systems and products for current and future vehicles, Johnson Controls is committed to enhancing safety, comfort, and sustainability. Reflecting this commitment, the company today unveiled the I3 concept at the 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The I3 -- which offers innovations in "Ingenuity, Integration and Interface" -- includes "industry first" technologies for vehicle interiors and battery systems -- all in a flexible, comfortable and user-friendly package. The I3 concept targets the fast-growing, crossover-utility-vehicle (CUV) segment, and also addresses the growing market interest in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as a sustainable mode of transportation

In developing the I3 concept, Johnson Controls designers and engineers zeroed in on the needs of CUV consumers, who seek individuality and flexibility; vehicles that serve work -- and leisure -- time needs; and interiors with a harmonious ambience. New seating solutions in the I3 give a spacious feel and allow enhanced room for storage. A variety of electronic innovations promote comfort and convenience based on a unique Johnson Controls approach to interior packaging and integration called "Human Machine Interaction" (HMI). An advanced lithium-ion battery is the technology enabler of the concept vehicle's PHEV propulsion system, one that offers substantial fuel economy and security benefits. Also reflected in the I3 concept is another important goal of the Johnson Controls design team -- to leverage global synergies and sustainable solutions.

The I3 concept is on display this week at the NAIAS, as part of the Johnson Controls product and technology exhibit in room D2-15 of Cobo Center.

"By seamlessly integrating a wide range of innovations in the I3 concept car -- in seating, interiors, electronics and battery products -- we're providing a view of the future possibilities for vehicle interiors and power solutions," said Jeff Williams group vice president and general manager, North America for the Automotive Experience business of Johnson Controls. "Our goal is to create a smart environment that meets consumer demands for vehicle flexibility, connectivity, comfort and sustainability."

The concept's seat system features two innovations that provide flexibility and additional storage space: the Johnson Controls Slim Seat, and a rear-seat row that is completely hidden, until it's deployed for use. The Slim Seat has a thin-profile seat back, which provides the same levels of comfort and safety as a conventional vehicle seat. It is based on the company's "tried and tested" MS seating structure. This means that various safety or comfort features can be integrated, according to individual customer preferences. For example, the I3 concept car features seats with active head restraints and lumbar support systems.

A new seat foam from Johnson Controls -- called VT Foam -- is used in the rear-seats, ensuring better vibration dampening, long-term durability and optimal long-term comfort. The concept's second row of seats is hidden from view when not in use, creating extra space for storage. The rear seating area can accommodate large cargo, with enough space also left behind the first row of seats for pets. Hooks to hang clothing are available on the overhead panel and rear-seat row. At the touch of a button, the rear-seat row can be unfolded to make room for two passengers. A mechanical release allows the seat cushion to fold down into place. The "50/50" seat backs are divided to allow one seat at a time to be deployed, as needed. Small items such as cameras can be stored safely under the seats, with a cover to keep them out of sight.

Integrated into the vehicle's trunk is an advanced lithium-ion battery that has been specially designed for plug-in, hybrid-electric vehicles. PHEV batteries are one element of the company's advanced energy solutions portfolio that targets the full range of hybrid applications, from micro-hybrids to full hybrids. Advanced battery technologies from Johnson Controls support low-emissions HEVs, and help to reduce consumer dependence on fossil-fuel resources. Compared to nickel-metal hydride batteries, the lithium-ion battery from Johnson Controls takes up one-third less space and weighs 50 percent less. It has a service life of approximately 10 years. When regularly plugged into the electric grid at night, the PHEV drivetrain can yield fuel economy performance that is nearly double that of the conventional drivetrains.

To ensure safe and reliable performance, the battery system is engineered with multiple "layers" of protection against abusive operating conditions. This layered approach complements the cell electrochemistry and container design with system-level software and hardware features to maintain functional integrity.

The battery is not the only sustainable feature onboard the I3 concept car. Overall, the I3 concept is designed to fulfill the requirements of the 2015 ELV (End of Life Vehicles) directive in Europe. This directive mandates 95 percent recyclability for all new-vehicle systems, components and materials.

Ergonomics was a key development consideration for electronics featured inside the concept. To accomplish excellent ergonomic features and performance, designers and engineers at Johnson Controls applied the company's Human Machine Interaction approach -- a key element of the company's product development process. The 3D instrument cluster reflects the HMI process in which electronics are added into a vehicle with close attention to interior integration, user interface, and behavioral logic.

The 3D cluster has analog information overlaid with digital images. This allows speed and navigation details -- as well as other information -- to be displayed simultaneously. The technology makes it possible for analog-only, analog-plus-digital or digital-only information to be shown. A whole new design look and feel are created in the concept car, with the display reduced in width to a single, round instrument. The driver can select various functions, using switches on the steering wheel.

Another reflection of the company's HMI approach is the Mobile Device Gateway. This technology adds convenience by linking mobile electronic devices -- including mobile phones, navigational devices or music (MP3) players -- to the vehicle and allowing the driver to use the devices intuitively, safely and easily. A key advantage is that a driver doesn't have to find and press tiny keys on a mobile device, since the devices are activated through a multicontroller or voice recognition. This allows the driver quick, convenient access to various external or built-in device features, such as text messaging, music, software updates, etc.

The monochrome, touch-screen display of the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) controls is another innovative display that is based on smart planning, vehicle theming and modern functionality. It includes all conventional air-conditioning controls and reduces the need for about 20 mechanical buttons and knobs. In addition to its intuitive design, this product -- unlike most touch screens -- eliminates the need for elaborate foil coatings that cover the display surface. The graphics are clearly displayed, and also can be animated.

Another driver convenience feature in the I3 concept is a unique, passive-entry function called PASS (Passive Access Start System). When a driver approaches the vehicle door with the key, the door unlocks automatically and can be opened without inserting or turning the key. This occurs because the user is holding an identification device. After the driver is seated, the engine also can be started at the touch of the start button. PASS plays vital role in optimizing vehicle electrical architecture because the keyless entry and start functions are combined with major cockpit functions.

A range of colors and materials in the I3 concept deliver a harmonious look, feel and overall impression. The themes of nature and city life are reflected in the interplay of materials, colors and lighting effects in the interior. Coarse graining and natural materials showcase the nature theme, while the colors and lighting also reflect aspects of the city. The contrast of light/dark and matte/gloss create a "cocoon" effect that makes the driver feel protected.

Johnson Controls' new surface technology, PP (polypropylene) Thin Film, was used in producing the door panels and floor console. It enhances the high-end ambience of the interior -- providing high-quality, door-panel and floor-console surfaces that are scratch- and mark-resistant. In addition, it adds to the overall sense of harmony, because it can be applied to almost all interior components. RIM alpha surface technology from Johnson Controls was applied to produce the I3 instrument panel. It enhances the appearance and perceived value of the interior. A key advantage of this surface technology is that it enables the creation of multi-colored parts in a single processing step. The ability to adjust the surface-wall thickness is beneficial when it comes to airbag integration.

Armrests and seating coverings in the I3 concept are made of soft nubuck leather. Coarse graining and exposed seams -- with contrasting topstitching -- underscore the durable character of this CUV. Warm, mother-of-pearl tones and muted blues convey elegance and vitality in the interior.

Functional elements -- with a metallic finish -- lend a high-tech feel to the interior. The metal and blue lighting of the electronic devices also are reflected in the carpet. Ambient light inside encourages a calm mood, turning on automatically a few seconds after the bright entry lighting is dimmed and the colors change. Apart from the advantages of a pleasant ambience, the large-scale light source also has some functional benefits. It eases passenger entry into the second row, and reduces glare for reading. In addition, flexible light guides in the door panel and floor console -- using LED technology as the light source -- illuminate the interior in blue.

Williams says that nearly all of the Johnson Controls products and innovations included in the I3 concept car are available for production now, and can be integrated into the next generation of vehicles.

Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) is the global leader that brings ingenuity to the places where people live, work and travel. By integrating technologies, products and services, we create smart environments that redefine the relationships between people and their surroundings. Our team of 140,000 employees creates a more comfortable, safe and sustainable world through our products and services for more than 200 million vehicles, 12 million homes and one million commercial buildings. Our commitment to sustainability drives our environmental stewardship, good corporate citizenship in our workplaces and communities, and the products and services we provide to customers. For additional information, please visit http://www.johnsoncontrols.com/.

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