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Model U Ford

The Model U concept was developed in 2005 by a collaborative team from Ford's Research and Advanced Engineering, and Brand Imaging Group, Bill McDonough, BP and a host of technology suppliers. 

Its aim was to tackle key questions facing the automotive industry - emissions, safety and fuel economy, whilst incorporating green materials and processes [1].   

  • The Model U has a reconfigurable interior and exterior to allow for upgrades. 
    • A series of slots in the floor, door panels and instrument panel allow different components such as armrests, wireless switches or any other accessory to be mounted, moved around or added later. 
    • The slot system allows the user to take personal accessories to other vehicles, and to very quickly update the look of the car when it enters the used-car market. “The slots are designed to provide power and access to the vehicle's electronic network.
    • The exterior has a power retractable roof, rear window, tailgate and trunk, allowing the vehicle to go from closed to open.” [1] 

  • Rear seats are located on slots and can be moved forward to offer more rear space or removed to create a 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.[2]
  • The Model U is powered by a “2.3-liter, four-cylinder supercharged, intercooled hydrogen internal combustion engine, coupled with a hybrid electric transmission”. The equivalent fuel efficiency of 45 miles per gallon, a range of about 300 miles, near-zero regulated emissions and a 99% reduction in carbon dioxide.
  • The engine also features a Modular Hybrid Transmission System (MHTS), through which the “electric motor simultaneously fills the role of flywheel, starter, alternator and hybrid traction motor.”  This means that when a driver stops at traffic lights, the engine can automatically be switched off to save fuel.  When the accelerator is reapplied, the electric motor instantly starts the engine and within 300 milliseconds the vehicle begins to pull away.[1]
  • It allows a person to speak naturally to operate on-board systems including entertainment, navigation, cellular telephone and climate control”.  It also “features pre-crash sensing, adaptive front headlights and an advanced night vision system to help the driver avoid accidents before they occur.” [1]
  • The Model U also “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.” [1]   The Model U is helping encourage development of materials that are safe to produce, use and recycle over and over again in a cradle-to-cradle cycle. These materials never become waste, but instead are nutrients that either feed healthy soil or the manufacturing processes without moving down the value chain.
    • “recyclable polyester on seats, dash, steering wheel, headrests, door trim, and armrests.
    • a corn-based biopolymer for the retractable canvas roof and carpet mats.
    • also corn-based fillers in the rubber tyres as a partial substitute for rubber black to improve rolling resistance and thus fuel economy
    • soy-based composite resins form the rear tailgate and side panels
    • soy-based composite foam for seating
    • all the armrests are interchangeable for ease of maintenance and remanufacturing
    • lightweight, recyclable aluminium body
    • versatile body shape and design, converts from a sedan to a utility truck” [3]
  • References

    [1] media.ford.com, Model U Concept: A Model for Change. 2005. http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=14047

    [2] Ford Motor Company, Model U. 2005. http://www.ford.com/en/innovation/design/vehicles/modelU.htm

    [3] Treehugger, Ford Model U concept SUV. 2004. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2004/12/wip_ford_model.php