If I had a dollar for every time the word “millennial” was mentioned in the unveiling of the Chrysler Portal concept at CES in Las Vegas yesterday, I could have walked several yards to a blackjack table and made a sizeable wager. The original maker of the minivan called the semi-autonomous EV “the ‘fifth generation’ of family transportation focused toward the millennial generation” and paraded onstage a team of designers from the demographic to introduce the futuristic vehicle.
As media swarmed the Portal to get pictures following the presentation, a Chrysler representative mentioned to me that the concept is unique in that it’s meant to emphasize the interior and cutting-edge technology as much as the vehicle’s sleek sheet metal. FCA says that the Portal was “designed from the inside out.” Cindy Juette, lead interior designer for the Portal, described the cabin as a “third space” between home and work and compared the streamlined space that uses neutral and grey tones to an art gallery.
Like FCA minivans old and new, the Portal has flexible seating that can fold up or flat and slide fore/aft on a track system, but also uses what Juette called a “thin-design” to make the seats easier to move. Since the Portal is a battery-electric vehicle, with the battery pack running the length of the floor, the lack of an engine compartment allows for extra interior space.
Millennials want technology to be an essential aspect of their vehicles, and Portal has gadgets and tech features in spades. FCA designer Emilio Feliciano mentioned that Millennials are accustomed to “graphic-rich screens,” so the Portal has several displays positioned throughout the interior.
These include an instrument panel that runs the length of the dashboard, a flat-panel in-dash display and one above the second-row seats that allows passengers to share music, images and videos. Feliciano added that occupants would be able to order takeout using the central screen and place individual orders.
Portal will have as many as eight docking stations for portable devices and Feliciano said that the vehicle will be able to learn each user’s profile based on facial recognition and voice biometrics. He also noted that the vehicle will permit device integration ranging from wearable tech to baby monitors, and that Personal Zoned Audio will allow passengers to listen to their own tunes without disturbing others or even play in-car karaoke.
Chrysler said Portal “is capable of SAE Level Three semi-autonomous operation and the driver has the option to turn driving control over to the vehicle under certain highway driving situations. It’s equipped with radar, lidar and sonar sensors as well as cameras, and an FCA spokesperson told me that the vehicle will be “autonomous-ready as the technology evolves.” This includes an aviation-style steering yolk that recesses into the dashboard for self-driving.
Chrysler said the Portal concept will have a range of more than 250 miles on a full charge, and DC Fast Charging will allow the battery pack to be recharged for 150 miles of range in less than 20 minutes. The exterior design of the Portal features side doors that slide open, splitting the B pillars, while a transparent roof allows each passenger to have his or her “own personal skylight,” said designer Matt Dunford.
FCA said it has been studying millennials for more than two decades using ethnographic research to determine the wants and needs of this dominant demographic. The automaker added that in the next 10 years or so, most millennials will be starting families and 75 percent of all children will have a millennial parent.
They’ll need a vehicle to cart around all those kids, and FCA is hoping to provide a Portal for their transportation needs while reinventing the minivan for the millennial generation.
Originally published by Forbes.com