SHANGHAI : Return of the bench seat : concept of EVs show space big enough for sofas.

Electric vehicle [EV] concept shown in Shanghai some two weeks ago, such as the Audi AI; me and Infinti QX Inspiration, point to a future of a living- room-like comfort in cars with flat floors and ample space for sofa-like bench seats.

In the design studios, automakers have been taking advantage of the space freed up by the  electric motor, which takes less room than the bulky internal combustion engine, cooling apparatus and complex transmission gears needed  for gasoline cars.

As most batteries in an EV are laid out flat under the floor, the EVs shown in Shanghai auto show, which started one last Tuesday, also have more height, and in fact, many are sport-utility vehicles [SUVs]

Both the AI:me urban car and Infiniti's QX Inspiration SUV have flat floors, interiors large enough to accommodate what looks like a sofa in the back and more leg room and storage.

Because there is no tunnel, which often houses the drive shaft and exhaust apparatus in a gasoline car, running through the length of the EC cabin, the centre of the rear seat ''can become just as valuable'' as the space on its sides, design chief for Nissan's premium brand Infinti, Karim Habib, said.

That in turn points to the possibility of ''a return of the bench seat'' in the front and the rear - a throwback to the American cars of a bygone era, Habib told Reuters.   

The EVs flat and slightly elevated floor allows passengers to slide into it, Habib said.

''You can kind of comfortably sit back into it. You can cross your legs, stretch your legs out,'' he added, referring to the QX Inspiration concept car.

Audi's AI:me  offers what the company's China operations chief, Thomas Owsianski, described as  ''maximum space comfort'' despite its smallish urban car profile.

''We are fundamentally changing the perception of a [urban[ car, particularly car experience,'' Owsianski said in Shanghai last Monday.

''The AI:me has very compact dimensions but...........it shows the urban mobility, especially premium mobility, doesn't need to feel small. Cars are becoming a living room space.'' [Agencies]


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