2013 Ford Atlas concept cargo box lighted

There are a couple neat things going on in the Atlas’ cargo box. See that metallic-looking band that swings around the front end and sides of the bed? Those are fold-away tie downs on a sliding track so the best location for each job is an adjustment away.

2013 Ford Atlas concept tailgate step-cargo cradleTo the right we see another feature. Actually, this is an expansion on an existing feature and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t make it to production. Currently, Ford offers the Tailgate Step, a step that extracts from the tailgate when it’s down. But Ford took the idea a step further.

When the tailgate is in the up position, the step extends up to be level with the roof so that long objects can be secured from the roof to the new Cargo Cradle. Ingenious.

Other features include a 110v outlet in the cargo box and cargo ramps that secure under the truck until needed. The idea seems feasible for production but I have no idea how practical it actually is.

Technology versus the wind
Apart from managing to make the blocky proportions of a truck aerodynamic with mega-sized bevels that increase style as much as they reduce wind drag, Ford has gone to great lengths to creatively cut down wind resistance for the Atlas.

One of those methods is the use of active grille shutters. The feature which closes a portion of the radiator grille to encourage airflow over rather than into the engine bay, is nothing too new. It’s been employed on concepts for decades and in use in some production vehicles today.

Shown below is a split picture I put together that illustrates what the grille looks like with its shutters closed (left) and open (right). They operate automatically and their setting depends on ambient and engine temperatures, and how the vehicle is being used.

2013 Ford Atlas concept front grille shutters split demo

Another part that is affected, you may have noticed, is the air-dam below the bumper. It lowers (left) at higher speeds to increase aerodynamics and raises (right) at lower speeds for greater ground clearance.

Also aiding aerodynamics are the automatically-deploying, power running boards that lower for easing ingress and egress then retract to get out of the wind’s way.

While that aforementioned feature is also in use today, thereby making it a feasible production feature, this next one is iffy at best.

2013 Ford Atlas concept wheel shutters compare

What you are looking at are more automatic shutters. These operate via electric motors that are powered by a battery and self-contained recharging unit, all mounted in the wheel. There are, what seems to me to be, a few problems. One, that pesky snow and mud again, plus rocks and possibly small branches could become wedged in the shutters while trying to close. I suppose making the device smart enough to recognize the situation and abort before doing any damage could avoid a problem.

But the other question I have is how much abuse those wheel shutters could take, not only from the urban jungle but more likely those that use their trucks for off-highway purposes.

Clever but I’m not convinced it’s practical. Then there’s the cost. How long would it take in fuel savings to pay for the device?

Continue to page 3, below.

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