Designed to emulate the Model T in the 21st century, Ford's Model U concept is powered by a supercharged hydrogen internal combustion engine, equipped with a hybrid electric transmission and applies eco-friendly materials and processes.
"When Henry Ford built the Model T, it was affordable, offered the most advanced manufacturing and was built with the most advanced materials," says Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, Ford Motor Company vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering.
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"In a similar but entirely contemporary way, Model U starts a new cycle. Emissions, safety and fuel economy, also green materials and processes, are all key questions facing the entire industry. Equipped with an array of upgradable technologies and a multi-function tailgate, the Model U is designed for mass production but has the capacity for a high level of personalisation.
Reconfigurable Interior and Exterior - the Model U interior is modular, allowing for ongoing upgrades. Slots in the floor, door panels and instrument panel in accommodate modular components and provide power and access to the vehicle's electronic network. The exterior is highlighted by a power retractable roof, rear window, tailgate and trunk, allowing the vehicle to go from closed to open.
Hydrogen ICE plus Hybrid Electric Powertrain - A 2.3-litre, four-cylinder supercharged, intercooled hydrogen internal combustion engine, coupled with a hybrid electric transmission offers enhanced fuel economy - the equivalent of 45 miles per gallon and about 300 miles of range - plus near-zero regulated emissions and a 99-percent reduction in carbon dioxide.
The powertrain also features Ford's advanced Modular Hybrid Transmission System, a way to simplify hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) technology in manufacturing, while contributing to significant fuel economy improvements. This vehicle can meet PZEV emissions.
Conversational Speech Interface - Model U showcases advanced conversational speech technology that allows a person to speak naturally to operate on-board systems including entertainment, navigation, cellular telephone and climate control.
Improved Driver Visibility and Awareness through Active Safety - Model U features pre-crash sensing, adaptive front headlights and an advanced night vision system to help the driver avoid accidents before they occur.
Green materials and processes - The Model U features advanced materials that have been designed for the optimum health of the car's occupants. These were designed for their ecological effects and can go from cradle-to-cradle, instead of staying in typical cradle-to-grave waste streams.
Reconfigurable Interior and Exterior Designs
The Model U's unique 3-box profile exterior has a tough modular look.
Body panels are visually separated through different finishes and are made of different materials. The body side has a glossy appearance; the doors are matte and grooved for both design appearance and structural integrity. The body structure is aluminium; the front side panels are built with a natural fibre-filled composite material. Model U goes from completely closed to completely open. When completely open, it looks like a pickup. The rear seats can be removed to provide a longer loading floor.The roof is a power-retractable canvas soft top that opens rearward to offer a nearly open-air motoring experience. The rear of the vehicle also can be opened with power controls. The rear window folds into the deck lid and the deck lid then folds back and down into the floor so that it is hidden and safe from being damaged.The Model U also features a power hood that opens from the windshield toward the front of the SUV. The hinges are hidden in the front bumper.The interior of the Model U is uncluttered and open, but allows for flexibility through the use of the innovative slot system.
Three basic layers that make up the interior:
The bottom surface is the base of the vehicle. It is painted a dark gray and helps to emphasize the glossier layer. Much of the hydrogen fueling system, including its four tanks, is beneath this surface.
The middle layer is the floor, which has a semi-gloss appearance. Nicknamed 'the magic carpet' by the designers, it flows from the top of the instrument panel, down the footwell over the hydrogen storage tanks and all the way to the tailgate. Through it run the main three slots.
The top layer is fabric and is used on all points of contact, including the seats, armrests, steering wheel and dash. The fabric is an orange colour.Model U comes with wireless capability.
The steering wheel is located in the first slot and is equipped with two controls. One operates voice controls and the other is a scroll wheel that lets the driver control fan speed and volume of the entertainment system. These buttons are repeated on the armrests in both the front and rear rows. The basic dash has analog dials, but they can be upgraded to digital. The pedals are stationary, but the gear shifter is a wireless device that can be located between the seats or directed to the driver.The owner can choose to place a second screen in the passenger side there or use the space for storage.Rear seats are located on slots and can be moved forward to offer more rear space or removed to create the pickup bed. Rear-seat passengers will have small entertainment screens in front of them. Slots allow them to plug in DVD, computer or game systems.Finally, small slots are located in the roof for placement of the rearview mirror, sun visors and microphones for the speech system. These slots also are the design element of modular technology that is central to Model U's functionality.
The advantages of Hydrogen based propulsion
Because hydrogen has a very wide combustion range (from 4 to 75 percent), hydrogen-fueled engines are able to use a wider range of air/fuel mixtures than gasoline engines, and can be run in the fuel-efficient "lean" regime without the complications of pre-ignition or "knock."
Much like a diesel engine, the hydrogen ICE runs unthrottled while under way, with air/fuel mixtures as lean as 86:1 during highway cruise, compared to the 14.7:1 of gasoline-powered vehicles. It can reach an overall efficiency of 38 percent, which is approximately 25 percent better than a gasoline engine.Because there are no carbon atoms in the fuel, combustion of hydrogen produces no hydrocarbon or carbon-dioxide emissions.
Even without aftertreatment, oxides of nitrogen (NOX) are very low, and catalyst research may soon reduce tailpipe output of potentially smog-forming emission to below ambient conditions in many cities.Designing a gasoline engine to burn hydrogen fuel has typically resulted in significantly lower power output. Ford researchers have shown that with supercharging, the hydrogen ICE can deliver the same power as its gasoline counterpart and still provide near-zero-emissions performance and high fuel economy.
The centrifugal-type supercharger provides nearly 15 pounds per square inch (psi) of boost on demand. Also, Model U uses a novel dual-stage intercooling process. After leaving the supercharger, the intake air passes through a conventional air-to-air intercooler, then through an air conditioning-to-air intercooler for a further reduction in temperature.
This patent-pending solution further improves the performance of the engine.Ford Modular Hybrid Transmission SystemThe hydrogen ICE is joined with an advanced hybrid electric transmission technology called the Ford Modular Hybrid Transmission System (MHTS). The torque converter from a conventional transmission is replaced with a high-voltage electric motor and two hydraulic clutches that permit the motor to operate independently of, or in concert with, the engine.
The electric motor simultaneously fills the role of flywheel, starter, alternator and hybrid traction motor. The hybrid system is known as a "parallel" arrangement, which means that Model U can operate on either the hydrogen ICE engine or electric motor, or both for extra power. A regenerative braking function reclaims energy that would otherwise be lost as heat, storing it in the 300-volt, air-cooled battery pack for the next acceleration, passing manoeuvre or hill climb.When the driver comes to rest at a traffic light, the engine can automatically be switched off to save fuel.
When the accelerator is applied, the electric motor instantly starts the engine, the clutch to the transmission engages, and the vehicle begins to pull away, all within 300 milliseconds.Model U can carry up to 7 kilograms of hydrogen on board. Its fuel tanks, made of a 3-millimeter aluminium pressure barrier with a carbon-fibre structural casing, are rated to an operating pressure of more than 10,000 psi.Hydrogen offers the potential for a sustainable, cleaner burning fuel.
Ford Motor Company, in conjunction with BP, is exploring the potential for hydrogen production. BP currently produces hydrogen from natural gas, in an efficient, effective manner. Continued support from industry and government, through FreedomCAR and other efforts, might one day make its use a reality in vehicles like Model U.
The conversational speech interface has a vocabulary of over 50,000 words so far, and speaks only when spoken to.
Model U's system can be used to configure different drivers' personalized settings - including the type of voice, the graphic style of the visual interface or music.
The Bluetooth technology enabling the system to work is located within the controls of the Model U. It works with any Bluetooth-enabled cellular phone or PDA, provided the device is turned on and is located somewhere inside the vehicle. It can be inside an occupant's pocket or a purse. This allows occupants to connect with all their personal files, including phone lists and Internet addresses. The Model U and individual personal electronics are automatically synchronized when entering the vehicle.
Improved Driver Visibility and Awareness through Active Safety
Four technologies in the Model U are designed to address these issues:
Adaptive Front Lighting enhances what our eyes can see with headlights
Active Night Vision also enhances the images we naturally see
A stereo camera-based pre-crash sensing system
A Ford-patented TrafficView system that allows the driver to see beyond vehicles directly in front of it.
With Adaptive Front Lighting, the goal is to change the area being lit depending on the driving environment. For example, at an intersection broader coverage is needed than when a vehicle is going straight at a constant speed. Then a narrow, but more distant area needs to be covered. The system uses vehicle inputs, speed, steering wheel angle and turn indicator position, plus global positioning satellites and digital mapping to constantly know where the Model U is located and what beam pattern is needed for safe driving.
An advanced Active Night Vision system on the Model U will allow the driver to see well beyond the range of low-beam headlights during night-time driving without affecting drivers in oncoming vehicles. The system uses a near-infrared (NIR) diode laser, compact optics, a sensitive CCD camera and a heads-up display.
The NIR light is invisible to the human eye, so the laser is used to illuminate the roadway with a high-beam pattern at all times without blinding oncoming drivers. Natural-looking video images that include lane markings and signs are shown on the heads-up display directly below the driver's view of the roadway.
Another technology on Model U is designed to help determine if collision threats exist. Pre-crash sensing technology uses a forward-looking stereo camera system. A pair of cameras detects if a vehicle is in front of Model U.
The system then processes the image to classify what type of vehicle it is and assess the potential collision threat. At that point, information is sent to the driver and appropriate safety technologies can be applied.
Traffic View uses cameras in the side mirrors to help drivers see around large vehicles and enables the driver to see problems up ahead without placing the vehicle in a dangerous situation. Model U also has four-point safety belts in all seating locations for improved protection of occupants in the case of a collision.View gallery - 16 images