In one of this year’s more dramatic entrances, Ford lowered its Atlas pickup truck concept from the ceiling of Joe Louis Arena during the 2013 North American International Auto Show. After this feat, which was accompanied by spark-spewing construction workers, the company described the features of this next-generation F-150, Ford’s long-time best selling product.
In addition to the obligatory tough-truck traits, Ford tipped its hand on a number of interesting fuel-saving engineering studies. The truck’s hubs were equipped with active wheel shutters, designed to block the open areas between wheel spokes at highway speeds. This trick cuts the aerodynamic drag caused by wheels with large openings and in turn increases fuel economy as the truck slips through the air with less effort. Ford also displayed an active front air dam and running boards that are retracted during high-speed driving.
Such aerodynamic improvements help cut fuel consumption on the highway. As recently reported by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Ford may also equip the upcoming F-150 with a much higher aluminum content and 10-speed automatic transmission, both to the benefit of all-around fuel economy. These tactics and others are likely to become an increasing part of the design formula as Ford seeks to make sure its highest volume vehicle keep pace in the ongoing fuel efficiency race.