Visteon e-Bee — New Ideas For Mobility

Visteon e-Bee — New Ideas For Mobility

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Traffic congestion is a major problem for motorists these days and although multiple efforts to counter it are underway, a magic wand solution is unlikely. Wouldn’t it be good if one could call for a car at a desired place, drive it to a destination and leave it for someone else to use thereon, without having to bother about the issues of using a different car next day? Visteon’s e-Bee concept car lends a peek into the future of mobility, including car-sharing, private ownership and rental usage. Besides, the vehicle also showcases some key connectivity and convenience technologies of the future.

INTRODUCTION

Visteon Corporation recently showcased its vision for mobility in the year 2020 to the Indian media in Chennai. The technology showcase was spearheaded by the display of the e-Bee concept car, which is based on the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. Apart from highlighting the car-sharing and connectivity potential, the concept also showcased the integration of cloud-based profile storage and touch-based controls. We bring to you a detailed insight into Visteon’s interpretation of future mobility along with a brief on some existing and short-term technologies earmarked for India.

e-Bee – MOBILITY IN 2020

The term ‘Bee’ in the name of the vehicle refers to the behaviour of honey bees in the natural environment. Drawing a parallel between this colonial behaviour, the name reflects the car’s ability to gather and provide driver-friendly data, while acting as a part of the mobility network and working in harmony with the environment.

With a strong focus on car-sharing, the e-Bee has flexibility as its mainstay within its interface technologies. Based on the regional and market requirements, the user-interface can be customised to lend a personalised in-cabin experience. A driver can choose to save his/her human machine interface (HMI) preferences and hence be able to restore his settings in a different vehicle at any time. This translates into a personalised experience despite the vehicle being changed, making it easier for people to adapt to the car-sharing model.

The interior design is eye-catching and futuristic, primarily owing to the absence of a conventional dashboard or HVAC upfront. The Integrated Climate System Module consists of a self-contained heat pump system along with an integrated HVAC and the refrigerant system in single module. This not only saves space but also lowers vehicle weight, further aiding efficiency.

The unit comprises of an electric compressor with an integrated motor, which makes it possible for heating or cooling to be operational, irrespective of the drive status. Hence, one could keep the cabin cool during summer even when the car’s drive motor is off. Another key inclusion in the cabin is a Head Up Display (HUD) panel, which brings up all of the driving related critical data to the driver’s line of sight. The e-Bee’s HUD is compact and hence can easily be integrated into a car, while offering space-saving benefits. A flexible design means it can be incorporated into any vehicle architecture, making it a flexible and cost-effective solution for OEMs.

Advancing further in the area of vehicle connectivity, Visteon showcased its Mid-Range Infotainment Platform on the e-Bee. The open source architecture of the system allows for a lower engineering cost by offering regular technology updates. The system can source data and music from the cloud as well as local sources, allowing for the system to act as a personalised music and information hub. From an OEM perspective, such system allows for a regular contact with the consumer beyond the sale of the vehicle.

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A key feature of the entertainment system witnessed by us was the four-zone individual speakers, integrated within the seats. This allows for the passengers to listen to different sound outputs, without any sound interruption or overlap. In real world, this could mean that all occupants can have better dialogue within the cabin and also enjoy their privacy, when needed. The infotainment system can seamlessly pair with a smartphone or tablet and also charge it wirelessly, making connected mobility even more convenient.

Lightweighting was another focus area we came across while experiencing the car. Surprisingly, there is no metal cross-car beam in the car, which makes way for a solution based on glass fibres thermoplastic composites. Use of expanded polypropylene in interior components offers a one-third weight reduction over conventional material. From a design perspective the cockpit goes a step further as it has no airbags! Airbags are instead integrated in the vehicle roof, which according to Visteon helps in offering more space to the occupants and also reduces weight, without compromising safety.

ROUND-UP

At the event we also got a chance to speak to Bertrand Stelandre, Head, Auto Envision Design & Innovation Europe, Visteon Innovation & Technology GmbH and Subu Nagasubramony, MD, Visteon India Operations & Climate Products, Asia. Popularly known as the father of the e-Bee, Stelandre believes the vehicle is a glimpse into the future mobility technologies, which will make it possible for the increasing traffic to become more manageable, while offering occupants higher levels of comfort and convenience.

The event also played host to a number of technologies developed especially for the Indian market. These included a new infotainment system developed collaboratively with engineers at Visteon’s technical centres in Chennai and Pune. The system offers multi-device connectivity and is capable of system improvements through software updates. The scalable architecture of the system means it can handle the rapidly shortening product development cycles within the electronics space. Other key technologies on display included a camera-enhanced cockpit for improved safety and an in-vehicle wireless charging device and a fully automated temperature control system.

Visteon Interiors too displayed an injected expanded polypropylene (IEPP) material for door trims, claimed to be lighter than a normal injection moulded part, while being affordable and easy to recycle. The division is also introducing a piano black moulded technology in India, which involves a new tooling and material combination that achieves high gloss specifications without painting.

Nagasubramony considers India to be an important market and plans to improve the company’s presence in the country through new products and increased production. The market-specific products on display were a practical example of the company’s commitment to the market.

At the end of the day, we did walk away from the event with a stronger insight into the increasing importance of electronics and connectivity-based solutions. These solutions will play a critical role in determining our foray into the next era of mobility, which faces more challenges than ever. If the e-Bee and its technologies are anything to go by, the future of mobility surely seems more entertaining and convenient along with being efficient and personalised. Calling in for a car to go to office, ordering a pizza to be delivered in the car while on the move, listening to a favourite number and resuming your music next day from where you left it, despite the car being different – is what the future will be like. At the same time, the car would be seamlessly interacting with the infrastructure and other cars to offer a safer and efficient journey. And all of this is could be a commercial reality sooner than expected.

 

Text & Photo: Arpit Mahendra