Building on the heritage started with the
Model T, Ford's Model U concept begins Ford Motor Company's
second century of innovation.
Equipped with an array of upgradable technologies
and a multi-function tailgate, Model U can stick with you
and adapt to your needs if your life changes.
by the world's first supercharged hydrogen internal combustion
engine, equipped with a hybrid electric transmission and
pioneering green materials and processes, Model U is a vision
for the future. It is Ford's model for change - exploring
the benefits a vehicle provides to its users, the way it
is manufactured and how it impacts the world.
It is the Model T of the 21st century.
Inspired by how the Model T revolutionized
personal transportation in the last century, a team of Ford
researchers and designers created Model U. It is a clear
expression of Ford Motor Company's strategy to pursue future
automotive technologies without compromising today's customer
expectations for personal mobility. It is a car designed
to be good to you and good for the world.
"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. "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. We believe
the Model U addresses them all."
A partnership was struck among Ford's Research
and Advanced Engineering, Ford's Brand Imaging Group (an
internal design think tank), Bill McDonough (architect of
the new Rouge Center and co-founder, with Dr. Michael Braungart,
of the product design firm MBDC), BP and a host of technology
U is very different from most futuristic concept vehicles,"
says J Mays, vice president of Design. "It tries to
address the challenges of the future and proposes exciting,
realistic solutions that exceed current industry standards.
Therefore, I hope it does justice to the name 'Model for
Model U offers SUV driving excitement that
is affordable, but can grow with a customer's lifestyle
and aspirations. It is designed for mass production, but
has nearly infinite capacity for being personalized and
upgraded. It offers advanced technologies that respond to
customers' desires for convenience, entertainment and continuously
improved safety. And it looks at how building a car, truck
or SUV can strengthen the environment.
"What I think is so exciting about
Model U is that it opens the door to a whole new way of
looking at things, just like the Model T did," says
McDonough. "The vision behind Model U is entirely positive.
Instead of focusing on minimizing environmental harm, which
is what most approaches to sustainable mobility do, Model
U starts to find ways to be re-creational and regenerative
- to have fun and create environmental benefits at the same
time. That's a totally new vision for the auto industry."
Reconfigurable Interior and Exterior - Model
U can adapt to each person's individuality. Its interior
is modular, allowing for ongoing upgrades. The Model U has
a series of slots in the floor, door panels and instrument
panel in which different components can be mounted, moved
around or added later. The slots are designed to 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-liter,
four-cylinder supercharged, intercooled hydrogen internal
combustion engine, coupled with a hybrid electric transmission,
propels Model U. It 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 the
most advanced conversational speech technology displayed
to date. It 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
Equipped with an array of advanced technologies, Model U
is one way of expressing Ford's vision for the future
The Model U fits Ford's Outfitters image with its flexible
design that can adapt to meet any individual's needs and
perform any type of function. Its design is determined and
confident, accentuated by a tough stance and pronounced
wheel arches. With seating for up to four people, lots of
storage space and built-in flexibility, it provides sensible
solutions in an innovative way.
"This project was very exciting for
us," says Laurens van den Acker, chief designer for
the Model U. "To embody the spirit of the Model T,
we had to design an extremely ingenious car that could grow
with your needs and meet an incredible packaging challenge.
Model U doesn't compromise interior space for the occupants
or cargo despite the storage space needed for the hydrogen
tanks and the hybrid powertrain."
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 aluminum; the front side panels are
built with a natural fiber-filled composite material.
Its flexibility makes it capable of performing
rugged jobs as well as driving to an evening out. It provides
different driving experiences with one vehicle. 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 of the Model U 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. It is shown as an affordable base vehicle that
grows with a customer's life and aspirations. The Model
U ties back to the Model T roots in that it is classless
and allows people to be aspire to something more, yet it
delivers for the people who can already afford more.
An important feature of Model U is the 'layering'
of major design elements. This is done to visually and physically
separate the materials from each other, a vital aspect when
designing for disassembly.
There are three basic layers that make up
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 color that is fresh and modern,
adding visual warmth to the Model U.
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 passenger side is an open space perfect
for customization. An owner can choose to place a second
screen there or use the space for storage. Accessories,
seats and storage bins could be left inside or moved in
and out as needed.
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.
The three main slots end several inches
behind the second row of seats to provide enough space for
attachments. Additional slots, located in the doors, can
hold armrests, wireless switches or any other accessory.
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 slot system allows the "U-ser"
to take personal accessories to other vehicles, or dealers
to very quickly update the look of the car when it enters
the used-car market.
Hydrogen Internal-Combustion Engine
Model U is powered by a supercharged 2.3-liter internal
combustion engine that runs on hydrogen. The Model U also
features a Modular Hybrid Transmission System.
Model U is powered by internal combustion engine (ICE) that
is optimized to run on hydrogen. The engine is supercharged
and intercooled for maximum efficiency, power and range.
Its emission of all pollutants, including carbon dioxide,
is nearly zero, and the engine is up to 25 percent more
fuel-efficient than gasoline engines. A hybrid-electric
transmission system further improves efficiency.
"We believe that hydrogen will be the
automotive fuel of the future," says Dr. Schmidt. "The
hydrogen ICE can act as a stepping stone to hydrogen-fueled
mass transportation that eventually will incorporate fuel
The hydrogen ICE is a common-sense powerplant
that uses existing, proven technologies to deliver the environmental
benefits of a hydrogen fuel cell - but at a fraction of
the complexity and cost.
The hydrogen ICE is based on Ford's global
2.3-liter I-4 engine used in the Ford Ranger, the European
Ford Mondeo and a number of Mazda vehicles. The engine is
optimized to burn hydrogen with 12.2:1 high-compression
pistons, fuel injectors designed to handle hydrogen gas,
a coil-on-plug ignition system, an electronic throttle and
new engine management software.
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
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 - until now. 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 System
The 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
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
maneuver 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
MHTS provides significant increased fuel
efficiency while delivering familiar performance and drive
characteristics. The technology is designed with minimal
effect on the base transmission so as to reduce complexity
and cost compared to other hybrid systems.
Model U can carry up to 7 kilograms of hydrogen on board.
Its fuel tanks, made of a 3-millimeter aluminum pressure
barrier with a carbon-fiber 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.
Conversational Speech Interface
Along with being personalized from a physical feature and
capability aspect, the Model U is also a more intelligent
vehicle that allows you to use technology for personalization
"One challenge we face is having our
vehicle technology keep pace with electronics developments;
we believe we have a solution," says Bryan Goodman,
Technical Specialist in Ford's Research and Advanced Enginering.
"The BluetoothTM-enabled slot system allows for continuous
additions and upgrades throughout the life of the vehicle."
In 1999, Ford Motor Company introduced the
industry's first full-featured vehicle voice control system
called JaguarVoice. This system enables control of a limited
set of vehicle features using very precise spoken commands.
It remains the best system in production today.
With the Model U, Ford is bringing voice
recognition technology to an amazing new level. Advanced
conversational speech interface technology simplifies the
control of many functions by allowing you to have a normal
dialogue with your vehicle. A text-to-speech system is used,
but will sound like a real person rather than a robot. Specific
commands don't have to be memorized. The voice system controls
navigation, phone, entertainment, climate control, the retractable
roof, and personalization preferences.
Conversational speech interface allows you
to use everyday language and flexible voice commands. If
there is any ambiguity in what a driver or passenger is
asking for, the system will ask for more information in
very simple language. For example, if an occupant asks the
Model U to "Call Steve Smith," and the system
finds several numbers for Steve Smith in the address book,
it will list them and ask which one should be dialed. If
asked to play music, Model U will ask what type and then
list the artists available. Music is stored in MP3 format,
and is downloaded through wireless technology from a PDA
or a home computer.
A clear advantage can be found in using
the navigation system. Current systems require a person
to either type in a location or spell it out letter-by-letter,
number-by-number. You can simply tell the Model U a specific
address, major intersection or one of many points of interest,
and it will guide you to your destination in conversational
For climate control, the driver or front
passenger can ask the Model U for different temperature
settings, fan speeds or locations, such as the defrost setting.
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
and even favorite music.
The BluetoothTM technology enabling the
system to work is located within the controls of the Model
U. It works with any BluetoothTM-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
The Model U offers several technologies designed to improve
awareness - for both the driver and the vehicle itself.
The goal is to enhance a driver's natural abilities and
supplement them with the vehicle's ability to recognize
a potential driving risk.
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
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 nighttime 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.
Vehicle classification is an emerging technology
that is key to accident avoidance systems. Countermeasures
could differ depending on the specific danger.
Traffic View uses cameras in the side mirrors
to help drivers see around large vehicles. Unique to Ford,
Traffic ViewTM enables the driver to see problems up ahead
without placing the vehicle in a dangerous situation. For
example, left turns at an intersection can be a challenge
if vehicles waiting to turn on the other side of the intersection
block the driver's view of through traffic. With TrafficViewTM
the driver can see if vehicles are approaching safely and
make the turn decision with more information.
Model U also has four-point safety belts
in all seating locations for improved protection of occupants
in the case of a collision.
Green Materials and Processes
The Model U is a realistic approach to the future, guided
by a powerful, positive vision. It follows the traditions
of the Model T by being designed for the masses and addressing
social issues, specifically environmental concerns. The
Model U represents how using and producing personal transportation
can have a positive effect on the planet instead of simply
minimizing negative effects.
"Model U takes a positive approach
to its materials and manufacturing," says David Wagner,
Model U's technology project manager. "Some of these
concepts won't come to fruition for years to come, but this
is an important first step. Examples can be found all around
the vehicle, inside and out."
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.
Eco-effective polyester is the fabric designed
by Milliken and Co. to be a technical nutrient. It can be
recycled into base elements and reprocessed into material
fiber again and again without losing any performance qualities,
and it is made from healthy substances.
This polyester is used inside the Model
U on its seats, dash, steering wheel, headrests, door trim
The Model U also uses a potential "biological
nutrient" made to safely return to the soil to feed
the next generation of resource growth called polylactide
or PLA. It is a biopolymer from Cargill Dow derived from
corn. PLA fabrics, derived from Interface, are used for
the Model U's canvas roof and carpet mats. The fabric has
the comfort and feel of natural fibers while having the
performance and easy care of synthetics that are petroleum
Because cradle-to-cradle materials (technical
and biological nutrients) aren't available in all cases,
other materials are used in Model U to lighten its environmental
impact. Renewable, plant-based components are used in several
cases to replace petroleum-based materials.
Rubber tires use corn-based fillers as a
partial substitute for carbon black. They offer lower rolling
resistance and lower weight, leading to improved fuel economy
and improved traction on wet pavement.
There are also several soy-based components
in Model U, including polyurethane seating foam and polyester
resin that is reinforced with fiberglass and used to make
In conjunction with Model U, the team from
the Ford Research and Advanced Engineering is working with
Shell Global Solutions to test a bio-based lubricant from
sunflower seeds. The Model U also begins to address manufacturing
issues trying to develop flexible manufacturing processes
that reduce energy use and parts complexity, as well as
develop technical processes that have a positive environmental
Flexible manufacturing plays a role in allowing
easy reconfiguration of a vehicle in the future. Various
types of vehicle body architectures can be constructed with
common nodes and common extruded tubes joined with low energy-efficient
methods. This could also allow many different vehicles to
be built in a single assembly plant with reduced inventory
and lower tooling cost.
This type of efficiency is also expressed
in the interior of the Model U. The armrests on all four
doors are exactly the same, as are the center armrests in
the front and rear seating rows. This modularity begins
to facilitate the recovery of the cradle-to-cradle materials
as Model U is dismantled, assuring highest-quality recycling
of these valuable substances.
Environmental concerns in manufacturing
are also addressed with a new UV-cure clearcoat system developed
by Akzo Nobel. Clearcoat is the topmost layer of a vehicle's
paint. It gives a vehicle its shine and protects the paint
from damage. During the clearcoat cure, the Model U was
exposed to ultraviolet light rather than to the high temperatures
that are used traditionally.
This system provides a harder finish and
means the Model U will be more resistant to scratches than
most cars and trucks. The process eliminates the need for
a bake oven and uses less energy and solvents than traditional
In addition to suppliers mentioned, many others contributed
to the development of the Model U, including:
Ashland Soy resin for body panels
Brilliant Technologies Headlight concepts
Dynatek Hydrogen fuel tanks
Goodyear Corn-based tires
Harman Becker Sound system
Makel Engineering Hydrogen sensors and controller
McLaren Hydrogen fuel rails and supercharger
Motorola Wireless technologies
Pi Technology Hands-free phone
Quantum Hydrogen fuel injectors
Roush Engine support and build
Sarnoff Collision avoidance systems
Sun Microsystems Vehicle electronics programming
SpeechWorks Conversational speech voice interface
TRW Four-point safety belts
USSC Soy-based foam for seats
Visteon Exterior lighting
MIT Medialab Wireless switches
Univ. of Northern Iowa - ABIL Soy-based grease
Reconfigurable exterior (rear window, decklid,
tailgate, canvas roof)
Reconfigurable interior (slot system for accessories and
Length (mm) 4,230
Width (mm) 1,810
Height (mm) 1,651
Wheelbase (mm) 2,685
Front track (mm) 1,583
Rear track (mm) 1,583
Front overhang (mm) 780.5
Rear overhang (mm) 764
Fuel capacity (kg) 7.0
Fuel type Hydrogen
Hydrogen 2.3-liter ICE with supercharging
and dual-stage intercooling
Module Hybrid Transmission System
Engine Horsepower 118 hp (88 kW) at 4,500
MHTS assist 33 hp (25 kW) continuous / 46 hp (35 kW) peak
Total combined horsepower 151 hp (113 kW) at 4,500 rpm
Torque 154 foot-pounds (210 Nm) at 4,000 rpm
Estimated fuel economy 45 miles per kilogram hydrogen (equivalent
to 45 mpg)
Emissions PZEV or better
Green materials and manufacturing
Corn-based roof canvas
Bio-materials, including soy-based foam and tailgate, sunflower
seed-based oil, corn tire filler
Flexible manufacturing, extrusions and castings
Conversational speech interface
Upgradable instrument cluster
Active safety technologies
Accident avoidance stereo cameras
Active night vision with laser-based heads-up display
Four-point safety belts