How the Blue Oval envisions the next-generation F-150 pickup truck was previewed by the Ford Atlas Concept that made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show. Ford provided a few early design sketches to provide an insiders’ look at the development process of this concept truck. Ford started off with having two highly diverse ideas for the basic shape of the Atlas concept.
The Bullet Train idea was meant for a radical-shaped, extremely aerodynamic truck that takes its styling inspiration from the Ford Evos concept. The cab consisted of smooth curves and a boldly swept windshield, features that are akin to the high-speed trains in Japan. Then there’s the locomotive concept that seems to be on the opposite end of the scale. This version is stocky, brown, and comes with huge tow hooks. And while it’s rugged and utilitarian, it doesn’t have the intense aerodynamic features of the Bullet Train.
At the mid-point is the Atlas concept, which is efficient and has smooth contours but with burly and muscular shapes. There’s one design idea of a windshield that made a panoramic sunroof effect as it extended into the roof. This design boasts a dramatic style but it’s also equipped with a central metal panel that can carry heavy loads. Even with its aesthetic appeal, Ford later determined that the Atlas concept will be more practical if it came with a full-width metal roof.
Designers suggested a slide-out, lockable tray that could fit between the truck’s frame rails below its bed. The sensible option would have permitted working owners to store tools, a first-aid kit, and other accoutrements but Ford thought that customers would want to bring items such as kayaks or lumber. This is why the Ford Atlas concept was presented with an electrically powered cargo cradle that enables the vehicle to carry long loads positioned on the cab roof and cradle.
Ford also thought about placing in bright spotlights to light up the Atlas concept’s bed as buyers may frequently use their trucks for business when it’s dark. But designers decided that a modern truck will be more striking if its lights are integrated into the walls of the truck bed, illuminating it from inside. These lights are electric-blue on the Ford Atlas concept.
The interior of the new Ford Atlas Concept is laden with structural styling cues as well as the latest innovations in utility, refinement and comfort. Its thin and lightweight leather seating means more legroom for rear passengers as well as integrated storage for smaller objects. The interior also features "floating" instrument pods as well as buttons and controls that could be operated even when the driver
is wearing gloves. One appealing aspect of the Ford Atlas Concept is the stunning fuel efficiency that makes optimal use of the next-generation EcoBoost powertrain. This powertrain features truck-enhanced Auto Start-Stop technology that could shut off the engine during a traffic stop to lessen fuel consumption. This feature is smartly suspended when the Ford Atlas Concept is towing.
Compared to engines with larger displacements, EcoBoost engines could save up to 20-percent more fuel and emit up to 15-percent less carbon dioxide, thanks to gasoline direct injection and turbocharging systems. So far, Ford has sold over 500,000 EcoBoost engines around the world, 250,000 of which were fitted on the Ford F-150. Ford was also able to give the Atlas Concept its fuel-saving nature by endowing it with several active aerodynamic elements that could reduce wind resistance.
For instance, the Ford Atlas Concept features Active Grille Shutters -- automatic shutters located behind the grille – that could stay open when the situation requires more cooling air for the engine, like during low-speed stop-and-go driving.
These shutters could stay close when the Atlas Concept moving at steady highway speeds, thereby improving its aerodynamics. The Ford Atlas Concept also features Active Wheel Shutters -- automatic shutters located in the wheels -- that have been concealed to enhance the car’s style at rest and low speeds.
When the Atlas Concept is moving at highway speeds, these shutters – powered by self-charging batteries that employs energy from the wheels' motion -- automatically close to enhance aerodynamics.
Furthermore, the Ford Atlas Concept is also provided with Power Running Boards that automatically deploy to aid passengers to enter the pickup truck at rest. When the Ford Atlas Concept is moving, these boards tuck up against the truck to improve both its aerodynamics and ground clearance.
In addition, a Drop-Down Front Air Dam is also specified for the concept. This drop-down front wind spoiler could be raised during low speeds to improve ground clearance or be lowered at highway speeds to enhance underbody airflow. Thanks to these elements, the Atlas Concept is able to save over 2 mpg on the highway sans any compromise in the truck’s towing or hauling capability.