Active wheel shutters show Ford’s aero focus for 2015 F-150

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  • Image: Ford Atlas F-Series concept Jan13.JPG
  • Image: Ford Atlas F-Series concept profile Jan13.JPG
Image: FordAtlas wheel shutters.jpg

Ford's new active wheel shutters in the closed (left) and open positions on the Atlas concept pickup.

Ford’s Atlas concept pickup, unveiled Jan. 15 at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, provides a glimpse at some key fuel-efficiency technologies engineers are readying for the 2015 F-150.

Besides the shift to high aluminum content in the front end and cab, aimed at reducing the 2015 trucks’ curb weight by up to 700 lb (317 kg) versus the current F-150, and a next-generation EcoBoost powertrain featuring auto stop-start, Ford is putting a serious focus on reducing aerodynamic drag, said Raj Nair, Group Vice President of Global Product Development.

The Atlas shows a few of the results of “our extensive aero development” on the next-generation pickup, Nair told AEI.

An unexpected feature on the Atlas is active wheel shutters. The shutters are in at-rest position behind the wheel spokes when the vehicle is stationary and at up to moderate road speeds. As vehicle velocity increases to above 60 mph (97 km/h), its wheel-speed sensors signal a dedicated battery that powers the shutters. They deploy in a fan-like pattern (think of a Chinese fan being opened), closing off the openings between the wheel spokes and thus enabling smooth airflow across the wheels.

Active grille shutters and an automatic-deploying active front air dam work in conjunction with the active wheel shutters, Nair said. The Atlas concept truck also features power running boards that tuck in close against the truck’s body at speed, also helping reduce drag.

Ford’s simulations and early testing indicate the aero package as shown on Atlas is capable of providing a fuel-efficiency gain of more than 2 mpg (0.85 km/L) at highway speeds without diminishing towing or hauling capability. Full-line automakers Ford will have to improve their light-duty trucks’ fuel economy to approximately 32 mpg to comply with the new U.S. CAFE regulations that require a 54.5-mpg fleet average by 2025.

The 2015 F-150 also is expected to feature a 10-speed planetary automatic transmission, currently under development, according to Ford and supplier engineering sources. As previously reported by AEI, Ford and General Motors are in discussions on sharing advanced transmission technology as they have done with the highly-successful six-speed transaxle program.

Other technologies revealed on Atlas that have potential for the 2015 production truck include a 360° point-of-view camera that provides the driver a “bird’s-eye” view of the vehicle; driver-controlled trailer-backup assist; dynamic trailer-hitch assist that helps line up the hitch with the trailer coupler; a dual-purpose tailgate step/cargo cradle; and LED headlamps and taillamps.

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