18. January 2013
Earlier this week at the North American International Auto Show, I was standing in the Ford exhibit looking at the side Ford Atlas Concept pickup truck, a vehicle that the company had revealed earlier that day.
About the Atlas Concept, J Mays, Ford group vice president and chief creative officer, said, “Every surface and feature in the vehicle has been crafted for purpose and capability while retaining an unmistakable ‘Built Ford Tough’ image.”
Right behind me was a 2013 Ford F-150. So when I turned from one truck to the other, the “unmistakable” was certainly there, as there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of obvious difference between the two.
(OK, the front end of the Atlas seems a whole lot brawnier (after all, it is named after the mythical Titan, but not to be confused with a Nissan truck), but from the perspective of the side, where the front can’t be seen. . . .)
An analyst from the Center for Automotive Research , when I commented on the similarity, said, “But look at that.”
And I didn’t know what he meant.
He pointed to the wheels.
And sure enough, there were automatic wheel shutters, similar to the grille shutters that are now being deployed in a number of vehicles in order to improve fuel efficiency (i.e., closing when cruising so as to improve aerodynamics).
The shutters open at low speeds and when the vehicle is at a stop, then automatically closed at high speeds to improve the aero. The motors that are used to do this are powered by self-charging batteries; the batteries get their charge from the motion of the wheels.
The point of the exercise is to contribute to improved fuel efficiency.
No word on the effects of the batteries and motors on unsprung mass. . . .