Future Battery Electric Cars Could Be Bringing Bench Seat Back

Keen-eyed observers of our Shanghai Auto Show coverage may have noticed that many of the electric vehicle concepts at the event featured large and very spacious cabins. Two of the most obvious examples were the Audi AI:ME Concept and the Infiniti QX Inspiration.

As both of these concepts feature electric powertrains with batteries in their floors, interior space can be maximized. In addition, the lack of a transmission tunnel means designers have started experimenting with new seating layouts, including bench seats, Reuters reports.

Both the AI:ME and QX Inspiration have bench seats at the rear. Apparently, according to Infiniti design chief Karim Habib, electric vehicles could mark “a return of the bench seat.”

“You can kind of comfortably sit into it … You can cross your legs, stretch your legs out,” Habib said about the rear seat of the QX Inspiration.

It is a similar story with Audi‘s AI:ME (pictured above). Despite being a small vehicle focused on urban use, it offers lots of room inside.

“We are fundamentally changing the perception of a (urban) car, particularly car experience. 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,” Audi China operations chief Thomas Owsianski said.

Whereas the AI:ME and QX Inspiration have bench seats, another EV that also premiered in Shanghai, the Qs Inspiration Concept (below), features two large, lounge-like chairs in the rear, offering an alternative at how the interiors of future premium electric vehicles may look like.

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  • Paul

    It’s like being in the Starlight lounge? 😉

  • McFly

    So, it’s not as much that the transmission* tunnel is gone, but rather that the whole floor is now basically a transmission tunnel?

    (*Many cars are FWD and still have the tunnel, so I guess it’s usually not a transmission tunnel but used for other stuff like exhaust piping and structural rigidity.)

    • europeon

      The transmission tunnel on modern cars has very little to do with exhaust pipes, driveshafts and so on, it’s there to provide structural rigidity to the chassis.

      • McFly

        The question here is still what is changed with an electrical drivetrain – is it only that the floor is actually higher all over? Not lowered in the middle?

        • Matt

          In the case of EVs, the batteries contribute to the rigidity of the floorpan so no ‘transmission tunnel’ is required for additional strength.

          • McFly

            I would say the “tunnel” isn’t gone at all, but has expanded to the full width of the car to become a box that safely holds the battery in place. And it’s the box that provides the stiffness, not the battery itself. Semantics, maybe 🙂

            But the most important question is probably: do we really want a flat and rigid sofa, or rather have three comfortable and individually adjustable chairs? I think the sofa solution is for back seats that aren’t used that much.

  • Rob

    I wouldnt mind if we had a front bench seat back, with the center able to fold down or something if someone wanted to split it, or use as an armrest. I miss the front bench seat, especially in trucks

    • Stephen G

      Exactly. Consoles have gotten out of control especially in trucks. Nobody needs a refrigerator sized box full of garbage taking up valuable space. Also, put the gear selector back on the steering column.

  • 98% OF CARS WITH REAR SEATS HAVE A BENCH SO I’M NOT SURE WHAT THE STORY IS HERE. THERE’S NO REASON THE SAME CAN’T BE DONE UP FRONT. THE MODELS S CAN SEAT UP TO SEVEN, A BENCH WOULD MAKE IT EIGHT. NO NEED TO HAVE A MASSIVE SUV JUST USE THE SPACE MORE EFFICIENTLY.

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  • Mitchell Jones

    this is the best comment I’ve read all year, I appreciate all the time and effort u took to illustrate your point with the pictures. I too am a huge fan of six seater cars- they used to be quite popular in Australia back when you could have three-on-the-tree bench seater cars here.

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