I'm not sure where to start with the new Ford Airstream concept. This vehicle - a sort of cross between a conversion van, a space capsule and a mirror – was unveiled yesterday at the Detroit Auto Show. This totally tricked-out vehicle concept is powered by a HySeries Drive powertrain (a version of this is also in the Edge prototype that will be unveiled later this month in D.C.). The HySeries Drive is battery-powered, with plug-in capability and has a hydrogen fuel cell as an on-board charger. Ford estimates a combined city/highway gasoline equivalent fuel economy rating of 41 mpg. On all-electric power, the Airstream concept can go 25 miles. Add some hydrogen (ahh, if only it were so easy), and you can go another 280 miles. The fuel cell, made by Ballard, turns on automatically when the battery charge dips below 40 percent. With the on-board charger (110/220 VAC), the battery pack can be refilled at home. Ford says the HySeries Drive is 50 percent smaller and less complex than conventional fuel cell system and should have more than double the lifetime.
The Airstream concept designers added 12 ceremonial rivets to the Airstream concept. Even with our new high-resolution galleries, you couldn't see all of them in the pictures we have so far (eight are near the Ford and Airstream logos on the front and back, and the last four are the centers of the wheels).
The Airstream concept is full of high-tech gadgets, like a 360-degree screen that come down from the ceiling and is viewable from all the seats in the car. Ford says, "Passengers can use the screen to watch DVDs, view the feed from the special camera that's custom-made for the concept vehicle and play vintage video games. Also, the 360-degree screen helps create different moods with ambient settings including a modern lava lamp, virtual fire and ice crystals."
If we had one of these things now, the first thing we're do is figure out is how to operate the passenger seat blogging tools. Yes, there is built-in blogging from the Airstream concept via a Sharp dual-view screen in the center of the instrument panel. Both the driver and front-seat occupant can also see views from the onboard camera. AutoblogGreen has arranged to take the Ford Airstream out for a test ride in the future. Be on the lookout for that, and we'll let you know what it's like to drive one of these things. If everything's hooked up, we'll try to upload a post or two from the vehicle.
Click through the jump for another picture and sorts of information directly from Ford.
2007 Airstream Concept
TWO AMERICAN ICONS DELIVER THE CROSSOVER MODEL OF THE FUTURE WITH THE FORD AIRSTREAM CONCEPT
- Crossover growth is exploding : Ford Airstream Concept speaks to the future of crossovers as the market segment is projected to top 3 million units annually by the end of the decade.
- Green Journey : Ford Airstream Concept is powered by a new plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell – called HySeries Drive – that operates under electric power at all times and delivers the combined city/highway equivalent fuel economy of 41 miles per gallon.
- Two icons of American transportation: Ford and Airstream have teamed up to deliver a futuristic crossover concept, showing what tomorrow's road trip vehicles could look like.
DETROIT, Mich. , Jan. 7, 2007 – Playing to win in the growing crossover segment, Ford has joined with another iconic company to showcase how it could further expand its lineup of expressive crossovers with the Ford Airstream Concept.
"Crossovers are an increasingly important part of our business, and Ford is going to continue developing an expressive range of these vehicles," says Peter Horbury, executive director – Design, The Americas. "The Ford Airstream Concept is a futuristic look at crossovers. It's the ultimate modern touring vehicle that delivers flexibility and capability with dynamic design that evokes the spirit of the journey."
The concept is powered by a plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell drivetrain – called HySeries Drive™ – that operates under electric power at all times. This advanced fuel cell system is half the weight and cost of today's fuel cells and can operate in the dead of winter. That's a major step forward because today's fuel cells don't do well when the mercury dips below freezing.
The Ford Airstream Concept captures the sense of optimism and adventure conveyed in American aircraft, spacecraft and the streamlined shape of Airstream trailers. It's reflected in the crossover concept's organic, fuselage-inspired form language, unique reflective paint and 12 ceremonial rivets, which pay homage to Airstream's iconic construction.
"For 75 years, Airstream has been an icon synonymous with the optimism, discovery and wanderlust that's helped defined America," said J Mays, group vice president – Design, and chief creative officer. "It seemed only fitting for us to come together through our shared passion for the open road and show a vision for the future of American transportation."
Much like Ford, Airstream began with one man's dream. In 1931, Wally Byam began leveraging aircraft-construction methods to make trailers aimed at feeding Americans' surging desire to travel.
"Silver bullets" have been shooting up and down highways ever since, leading a Recreational Vehicle industry that's realized record profits and revenues in 2005 and the first half of 2006.
"Business for Airstream and the RV industry has been strong, but we want to continue finding options for tomorrow's road trips. Our success in recent years has come from challenging the conventional thinking about what an Airstream is. The Ford Airstream Concept is a stunning example of just that," says Bob Wheeler, president and chief executive officer of Airstream. "Plus, a partner like Ford, with its long history as an American icon, made perfect sense for this kind of exploration."
Both companies are influenced by economic and demographic trends – chiefly baby boomers approaching retirement age.
In the U.S., 11,000 people turn age 50 every day. These consumers are starting to downsize their lives and their vehicles, opting for more nimble and fuel-efficient models. With their children leaving home and some retiring, they also have more time for travel.
For Ford, that trend – plus younger couples starting families later – is fueling a shift to crossover vehicles.
The crossover segment is expected to hit 3 million units by the end of the decade, making it potentially the largest U.S. vehicle segment.
For Airstream, these demographic changes are meaningful as well. RV ownership is highest among retirement-age consumers, and by the end of the decade, 50- to 64-year-old consumers will tally
57 million – a 38 percent increase versus 2000, according to University of Michigan studies.
And the number of RV-owning households is expected to grow to 8.5 million during the same period.
Seeing the Future Today
Growing Ford's crossover share means breaking through the competitive and fragmenting segment, and the company is leveraging bold designs to win customers.
Ford's crossover lineup already features the functional Freestyle, newly launched agile and modern Edge and, in time, will include a more refined full-size crossover based on the Fairlane concept.
Ford designers wanted to push further into the future and tapped inspirations including Airstream's iconic designs and the optimistic future Stanley Kubrick created and captured in his 1960s cult film 2001: A Space Odyssey. These inspirations are evident – inside and out.
The concept's bold, futuristic front-end explores a new look for Ford, encapsulating the single-surface grille and headlamps into the same graphic. Each of the concept's bold orange-trimmed window graphics is a unique shape.
"This reflects the purpose of the vehicle: looking out and remembering that the journey – not the destination – matters most," said Freeman Thomas, director, North American Strategic Design. "The Ford Airstream Concept is an ultra-modern, optimistic vehicle that allows passengers a pure traveling experience to enjoy with good company, no matter the destination ."
Its doors are asymmetric as well, allowing for easy loading of passengers and cargo. In addition to the driver's side hatch, the passenger side features a power clamshell door that runs two-thirds the length of the vehicle. A three-door hatch finishes the rear of the crossover.
The futuristic theme and modern form language of the exterior carries through to the concept's interior.
"Through the materials, color palette and technology, the Ford Airstream Concept has distinct cues from the spacecraft and environments portrayed in 2001: A Space Odyssey," says Thomas. "We're able to maximize the spaciousness of the interior, creating a lounge atmosphere in contrasting colors of cosmic red and white that provides an inviting experience for the ultimate journey."
The Ford Airstream Concept features a floating instrument panel with flush-mounted, touch-sensitive controls and a multi-function single gauge display provides the driver all primary information.
A Sharp® dual-view screen centrally mounted on the instrument panel provides a camera view and secondary driver-oriented information, while allowing the front-seat passenger to view DVDs and post mobile blogs. The driver and front-seat passenger will navigate in style in modern, pod-shaped swiveling captain's chairs that also rotate so they can easily socialize.
In the rear, lounge-like seating is sculptural, creating a continuous cocoon-like environment wrapped in bold red B&B Italia fabric. The focal point of the rear seating area is a 360-degree screen for entertainment and games. The unique screen also creates ambient mood settings, including a modern lava lamp and virtual fire, as well as a live camera feed.
How the Rubber Meets the Road
The new HySeries Drive plug-in hydrogen fuel cell featured in the Ford Airstream Concept is more than a concept.
This powertrain is already on the road and driving in a Ford Edge prototype. Ford scientists and engineers created this vehicle with partial funding from the United States Department of Energy. The HySeries Drive delivers the combined city/highway equivalent fuel economy of 41 miles per gallon.
In this application, the fuel cell's sole function is to recharge the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack as needed. This allows it to work like a portable generator, instead of an engine, as had been the case in previous Ford fuel cell vehicles.
The new fuel cell, supplied by Ford partner Ballard, operates in a steady state, allowing a significantly smaller, less expensive fuel cell and drastically improving the durability of the fuel cell. With this system, the fuel cell delivers the power needed to recharge the lithium-ion batteries, rather than to be the primary power source to drive the wheels, as in a typical fuel cell-powered vehicle.
In pure electric mode, the Ford Airstream Concept can travel 25 miles before the fuel cell begins operating to recharge the vehicle's 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack. With the hydrogen-powered fuel cell, the range increases another 280 miles for a total of 305 miles.
Safety belts remain the most important safety technology in vehicles. Ford is researching several new safety belt designs, including four-point safety belts found in the front seats of the Ford Airstream Concept.
"Inside, outside and under the hood, the Ford Airstream Concept speaks to the future," Mays said. "Ford is looking out onto the horizon and imbuing crossovers with emotion, made even more powerful by our association with Airstream."
Ford Airstream Concept Specifications
Ford's HySeries Drive plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell
Overall length: .......................185.0 in.
Wheelbase: .............................125.9 in.
Overall width: ..........................78.9 in.
Overall height at curb: ..............70.6 in.
Front: .......................................67.6 in.
Rear: ........................................69.2 in.
Front: ................. Double wishbone-independent suspension
Rear: ..................Multi-link independent
Front: .......................................37.5 in.
Second Row: ............................36.2 in.
Front: .......................................39.6 in.
Second Row: ............................33.1 in.
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures and distributes automobiles in 200 markets across six continents. With about 300,000 employees and more than 100 plants worldwide, the company's core and affiliated automotive brands include Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo. Its automotive-related services include Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.fordvehicles.com.
The First Airstreams, known for their high-quality riveted aluminium shells and state-of-the-art interiors, were built in 1931 by Wally Byam. Airstream, a subsidiary of THOR Industries Inc. since 1980, is world-renowned for quality, innovation and design. An Airstream is more than just a trendy product, it's a way of life embraced by thousands around the world for more than seven decades. Now celebrating its 75 th anniversary, the company continues the legacy today with its world-class travel trailers, motorhomes, and services. For additional information about Airstream, please visit www.Airstream.com.
Ford's press release on the Ford Airstream concept's HYSERIES DRIVE:
The new HySeries Drive™ powertrain featured in the Ford Airstream Concept is a battery-powered, plug-in hybrid with a hydrogen fuel cell that operates as an on-board charger. The HySeries Drive powertrain delivers a combined city/highway gasoline equivalent fuel economy rating of 41 mpg.
A version of this innovative powertrain already is on the road in a Ford Edge prototype created by scientists and engineers at Ford's Research & Innovation Center in Dearborn, Mich. The vehicle will be shown for the first time at the Washington, D.C., Auto Show on Jan. 23.
The plug-in hybrid is powered by a 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack at all times and has a range of 25 miles on a full electric charge. With the hydrogen-powered fuel cell, the range increases another 280 miles for a total of 305 miles.
The Ford Airstream Concept can travel at speeds of up to 85 mph. An on-board charger (110/220 VAC) can refresh the battery pack when a standard home outlet is available, making the concept a true plug-in hybrid.
When the battery pack is depleted to approximately 40 percent, the hydrogen fuel cell – supplied by Ford partner Ballard – automatically turns on and begins generating electricity to recharge the batteries. Like a conventional automobile, the concept will go until it runs out of fuel – in this case via a 350-bar hydrogen tank that supplies 4.5 kg of useable hydrogen.
The HySeries Drive name is derived from the powetrain's structure: a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered series hybrid drivetrain. This highly innovative approach reduces the size, weight, cost and complexity of a conventional fuel cell system by more than 50 percent. It also promises to more than double the lifetime of the fuel cell stack.
The architecture could provide a more likely path toward commercialization of fuel-cell-powered vehicles than earlier parallel hybrid fuel cell systems. In a parallel hybrid system, electricity from the fuel cell directly powers the vehicle, rather than recharging the batteries.