Japanese auto technology giant Panasonic has what it thinks is a sound idea for future cars and trucks: integrating audio systems into interior parts such as instrument panels and headliners.
The Pulse audio system that is part of the Fisker Ocean electric uses three 3.5-inch carbon fiber coaxial speakers hidden beneath the surface of the instrument panels. Additional speakers are mounted in the headliner to create a surround-sound effect, Panasonic said at the CES trade show in Las Vegas earlier this month.
If you've been around the auto industry for a while, you may be having déjà vu right now. The idea of combining auto interior parts and audio systems has been around for at least a couple of decades. In fact, the Ford Mustang took the top prize in the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Innovation awards for injection molding an acoustic chamber and subwoofer into a door panel in 2004.
In 2011, Johnson Controls Inc. worked with Bongiovi Acoustics on a proposed audio system integrated into the headliner and door pillar trim. (Yanfeng now runs JCI's former auto business.)
In 2003, Elliot Scheiner, a Grammy-winning recording engineer, visited an auto event to show off a Panasonic sound system integrated into a Lexus. Scheiner is also part of Panasonic's project with Fisker shown at CES.
What makes Panasonic think the concept could break through now? Because it's lighter and requires less power, both important for EV development.
The Ocean's Pulse audio system with 15 speakers is up to 60 percent lighter and uses 60 percent less energy, Panasonic says.