Detroit Auto Show: Johnson Controls Re3 Concept

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 29, 2010

The Re3, described as a foretaste of future small car technologies from Johnson Controls, was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show this week. The compact show car, as one of the most comprehensive car, combines intelligent packaging solutions with sustainable driving ideas.

One of the objectives of the Re3 was to provide more room in less space, more features in a less-expensive segment and extra economy without compromising performance.

Extensive modifications consist of a plug-in hybrid powertrain that can accommodate 5 adult passengers, a instrument cluster that has been extended to include the regular gauge cluster together with a 7-inch color touch panel display, a seat wing armrest, driver seat mounted controller, and eco-friendly materials that are renewable.

The re3 is driven by a small and fuel economical internal combustion powerplant that is integrated to a lithium-ion powered electric motor. To maintain a low center of gravity and maximize its distance in relation to the perimeter of the vehicle, the battery pack is located between the front seats and in the center of the car.

Battery system, which comes with dynamic cooling and electronics to keep operating condition at the optimum, is sufficient to power most commutes.

The Re3 interior highlights many renewable materials like fiber-wood and bio plastics that were used in its construction. Almost all of the features of the Re3 are currently production-ready and can be incorporated into the next generation of cars claims Johnson Controls.

Johnson Controls’ re3 concept displays how the company is able to not just redesign but also enhance the interior of a small vehicle in a way that meets consumers’ demands while adding to its value. This was shared by Jeff Williams, the group vice president and general manager of North America for the Automotive Experience business of Johnson Controls.

Many people prefer smaller vehicles that use environment-friendly materials, offer better fuel economy, and have the utility and luxury that ensure driving experience is made more enjoyable, Williams added. The re3 is a great example of how the company is able to meet all these demands through innovation, he continued.

Designers at Johnson Controls had to change course when it came to a small car. The designers applied a systematic approach in order to give it its maximum value and make sure it does not have the feel of an economy car. This was made possible by increasing the number of available features that are not often seen in a small car.

The controls team meanwhile started from scratch and then decided what was suitable for the model and after that, they optimized its performance. For the re3 concept, the development team had a number of objectives in mind.

It included having a plug-in hybrid vehicle that could seat 5 people but have a lower mass. They also sought to optimize its cost. It had to have a number of attractive features for the interior. The team also wanted a global concept that can be customized to fit the different markets.

Press Release

The re3 Concept from Johnson Controls Brings Together Innovative Engineering, Sustainable Solutions and Value-Added Amenities

For Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), a major goal is finding new opportunities to help its customers succeed by creating “smart” environments. In terms of vehicles, this means creating products that bring value today – reducing weight, optimizing cost and providing sustainable solutions that generate consumer appeal. With the debut of its re3 concept vehicle at the 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit this week, Johnson Controls demonstrates its strong capabilities and latest innovations in product and process technologies targeting the growing small car segment. The re3 exemplifies a smart environment that has three key elements: re:think – shifting the paradigm of what a small car should be, enabled by innovative engineering; re:new – providing an interior based on the core principles of sustainability; and re:spond – presenting a holistic experience that generates strong consumer appeal, through a focus on human machine interaction (HMI), comfort and interior ambiance. It 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.

Designers and engineers at Johnson Controls understand that the automotive market has shifted and that consumers today demand smaller cars, which are more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly, without compromising features and functions. The re3 concept offers more room in less space, more amenities in a value-priced segment and more fuel-efficiency in a vehicle with an appealing personality. It features a wide range of innovations developed by Johnson Controls, including: A plug-in hybrid battery system that allows generous seating for five adults in the vehicle; New, class-leading storage capacity in the instrument panel, enabled by the company’s Ecospace technology; An “extended cluster,” which includes a traditional gauge cluster, along with a 7-inch color, touch panel display; A seat-wing armrest and controller on the driver’s seat, enabling some of the controls to be moved from the center stack to the seat; A conversational seating arrangement, offering new ways to interact in the interior, as well as Slim Seating and rear, stadium-style folding seats; and Eco-friendly, renewable materials with “natural look” finishes throughout the interior.
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“Our re3 concept shows how we can redesign and improve the interior of a small vehicle to meet the needs of consumers while adding tremendous value for our customers,” said Jeff Williams, group vice president and general manager, North America for the Automotive Experience business of Johnson Controls. “People want smaller vehicles with better fuel economy, eco-friendly materials and the luxuries and utility that make the driving experience enjoyable, and the re3 is a great demonstration of our ability to help meet these needs through innovation.” To “rethink” the small car, Johnson Controls designers used a process that provides a systematic approach for optimizing value, and increasing the availability of features not usually found inside a small model, so it doesn’t feel like an economy car. The Johnson Controls team looked at the concept from a “clean sheet” perspective, made decisions about what was most appropriate, and then optimized performance. In developing the re3 concept, company designers sought to provide seating for five in a plug-in hybrid vehicle; significantly reduce mass and optimize cost; integrate many desirable interior amenities; develop the concept globally; and deliver a vehicle that is customizable to various markets around the world.

The “renew” element of the re3 concept includes a lithium-ion, plug-in series battery that powers the vehicle, as well as renewable materials that are lighter in weight than conventional materials, and offer a “natural look” finish on various interior components. Energy storage was a critical factor, with the battery placed between the front seats in the center of the vehicle to maintain a low center of gravity and maximize the distance to the perimeter of the vehicle. This also allows for maximum rear cargo storage and three passengers in the rear seat by utilizing the space between the two front seats in the center tunnel.

The battery system is sized to provide enough energy so that most commutes can be done on electric drive, and is designed with active cooling and electronics to maintain the optimal operating condition. Through its joint venture Johnson Controls-Saft, the company opened the world’s first production facility for lithium-ion hybrid vehicle batteries in Nersac, France in 2008. From a sustainability perspective, the re3 provides significant mass reduction, renewable materials, and smart features that enable efficiency. In the cockpit and on the door panels, surfaces are comprised of exposed natural and environmentally friendly substrate material with a fiber-wood appearance, giving the vehicle a handsome, organic feel. By eliminating the A-surface material, a 30 percent weight reduction was achieved. Also by reducing the number of plastic parts in the interior, the use of petroleum-based materials was decreased. 

To “respond” to consumer demand, the Johnson Controls re3 concept offers compelling HMI; redefined seating architecture; industry-leading levels of storage; and unique packaging of a lithium-ion battery – all in a small car environment. The Johnson Controls Ecospace instrument panel technology helps to make the cockpit area more spacious, with an open architecture structure that safely allows for unprecedented storage volume across the front of the instrument panel. This innovative structure is based on a hybrid (plastic/metal) construction, which generates weight and cost benefits and opportunities to integrate more functions.

As a result, designers achieved a 26 percent weight reduction in the instrument panel. In the re3, the center stack controls have been eliminated, reducing the number of switches and freeing up space. The infotainment and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) functions have been reintegrated into an extended instrument cluster and a seat-wing on the driver’s seat. Integrated into the extended cluster are two reconfigurable displays that allow the placement and delivery of information based on the driver’s needs. One of the displays – with a 4.3-inch screen – is located in the center of the cluster.

The other one is an outboard-mounted, high resolution, 7-inch display. Reorganizing the information shown is accomplished by a simple “touch and flick” operation, allowing the driver to manage information such as messaging, navigation, mobile commerce, vehicle diagnostics, energy consumption and vehicle / trip range. The driver-side functional seat-wing is ergonomic, providing controls that are used most often for HVAC and music management within easy reach of the driver and passenger. The enhanced HMI includes innovations such as the Johnson Controls Mobile Device Gateway with E-Bin, and Mobile Commerce with Card Reader. The Mobile Device Gateway adds convenience by linking mobile electronic devices – such as mobile phones, navigation devices or music (MP3) players – to the vehicle and allowing the driver to use the devices intuitively, safely and easily.

Mobile Commerce is a product that allows consumers to securely pay for mobile purchases and services while traveling – including fuel, parking, meals, entertainment and other goods – using their credit card or mobile phone while in the vehicle. The E-Bin is a space to place mobile electronic devices in order to establish power and data connections, as well as the location for a credit-card reader. Conversational seating is another innovation inside Johnson Controls’ re3 concept. It is enabled by the company’s next generation, lightweight MS structure. The passenger front seat slides backward into the second row, facilitating a more inclusive conversation with the rear passenger, or allowing the passenger to attend to a child more easily.
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The concept’s front seats include Johnson Controls’ Slim Seat technology; the riACT™ head restraint system that reduces the risk of whiplash injuries and meets safety regulations; vibration-dampening VT™ Foam produced with natural oil polyols; and “green” trim materials. The Slim Seat has a thin-profile seat back, providing the same level of comfort as a conventional vehicle seat via the Johnson Controls Comfort Shell technology. The Comfort Shell is a patented technology that enhances comfort through the use of a flexible panel in conjunction with the company’s VT Foam. In its second row, the re3 features the Johnson Controls stadium style, slim style, 60/40 flat-folding seat; and the company’s FaserTec foam pads.

The re3’s overhead system is optimized and offers a 30 percent weight-reduction opportunity. It includes Johnson Controls’ C-Lab Visor, which is lighter than conventional visors and reduces cost; a headliner substrate with natural material content that is lightweight and acoustically absorbent; fabric covered, compression-formed garnish trim that weights 50 percent less than a plastic injection molded part. A Functional Film Overhead Console reduces part count and complexity. Williams says that nearly all of the Johnson Controls products and innovations included in the re3 concept 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.

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