DETROIT - Johnson Controls Inc. is looking to parlay its expertise in interior modules into another part of the car: under the hood.
The company is speaking with automakers about a proposed battery module that would consist of an injection molded unit taking in the battery and surrounding systems such as radiator overflow tanks and containers for windshield-washer solution.
``We're looking at the same strategy that we have in interiors,'' Jim Gracyalny, sales director for advanced battery technology for JCI's automotive group, said in a Jan. 7 interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
``Why not bring our knowledge and market share in battery technology into other systems.''
JCI has extensive expertise in automotive batteries, supplying more than 50 percent of the batteries for some North American carmakers, sold under a variety of brand names, among them DieHard, Duralast, EverStart and Motorcraft. The battery division injection molds polypropylene casings and connections, but the operations are limited in press size. The company would use existing capacity within JCI's interiors unit to make battery modules, Gracyalny said.
The proposal also would take advantage of the ``just-in-time'' assembly footprint that JCI already has, using employees trained to combine extensive trim and electronic components to turn out battery systems.
The concept would offer automakers the same benefits as an interior packaging program, minimizing the connections and production time within the auto assembly plant while also freeing up space under the hood, he said.
Rather than finding space for separate containers, a combined module could allow two units to share one plastic wall. Workers inside the auto plant, meanwhile, can install one unit, rather than separate parts, cutting labor costs. JCI could design a system with unusual shapes and curves to squeeze around the available spaces under the hood, he said.
The unit would open to provide consumers with access to the battery for maintenance, jump-starts or replacement as needed.
``We have all of the manufacturing capabilities,'' Gracyalny said. ``Now it's just a matter of marrying those technologies.''