Detroit 2013: Ford Atlas Concept

By Brandon Turkus

January 15, 2013

Ram may have won North American Truck of the Year, but Ford is determined to have the last word at this year’s North American International Auto Show. That last word is this, the Atlas Concept.
More of a tech demonstrator than anything else, the Atlas is equipped with a next-generation EcoBoost engine that includes Ford’s first application of start-stop technology in a pickup. The start-stop system can disable itself if it detects the truck towing.
EcoBoost and start-stop weren’t the only fuel-saving features on the Atlas. Active aerodynamics, features that can automagically reduce drag on the car and improve fuel economy, are widespread. Active grille shutters are becoming a more common means of improving efficiency, but active wheel shutters? 
That’s right, the Atlas has a set of automatic shutters in each wheel that will remain open at lower speeds, but will close themselves off at higher speeds to further reduce aerodynamic drag. Power comes from a set of batteries that use the wheel’s motion to recharge themselves. Taking this obsession with aero to a new level is a drop-down chin spoiler. It only deploys at higher speeds, maintaining ground clearance in most other circumstances.
The Atlas Concept is just the sort of peak into the future that gets us excited for a new model. Ford has been quiet on when a new F-Series will arrive, but considering the current generation has been on the market since 2008, we’d expect to see a production model carrying the Atlas’s styling and technology cues within the next few years.
Please scroll down for the official press release from Ford.
Ford Atlas Concept: The Future of Pickups
Ford Atlas Concept is the future vision for pickup trucks
Innovative design integrates capability and smart technologies to transform customer expectations of what Built Ford Tough® will look like in the future
Next-generation EcoBoost® – coupled with advanced engineering and design innovations – creates leading fuel efficiency and increased capability
Trailer towing and cargo hauling are made easier with innovative features designed specifically for truck owners to improve utility and confidence
DETROIT, Jan. 15, 2013 – Ford today unveiled the Ford Atlas Concept to showcase the design, capability, fuel efficiency and smart technologies that will define future pickup trucks.
“The Ford Atlas Concept previews the innovations that will transform what people expect from their pickup,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “With 36 years as America’s best-selling pickup, we are absolutely committed to setting the agenda in the truck market.”
Design with purpose
The Ford Atlas Concept is inspired by decades of listening to customers at the places they work and play. The result is a purpose-driven design with prominent wheel arches, a wide stance and chiseled grille – all to reinforce its functional Built Ford Tough® image. 
“We wanted the concept to reflect how Ford trucks help customers in both their worlds – professionally and personally,” said J Mays, Ford group vice president and chief creative officer. “Every surface and feature in the vehicle has been crafted for purpose and capability while retaining an unmistakable Built Ford Tough look.”
Designers enhanced truck functionality, while creating new advanced features(see infographic here). For example, multiple tie-down points are integrated within the cargo box walls and load floor, along with 110-volt electrical outlets in the cargo box to charge power tools. An integrated roof carrying system and hidden extendable ramps give the truck unique functionality for a variety of jobs.
The interior is themed with structural styling cues and features the latest thinking in comfort, utility and refinement. Innovative, thin, lightweight seating in comfortable leather allows for extra legroom for rear passengers – along with integrated storage for smaller items. “Floating” instrument pods and glove-friendly buttons and controls keep the interior functional and ruggedly stylish.
Leading fuel efficiency
The Ford Atlas Concept features a next-generation EcoBoost® powertrain, which introduces truck-enhanced Auto Start-Stop engine shutoff technology. Auto Start-Stop shuts off the engine when stopped in traffic to save fuel – and smartly suspends the feature when the truck knows it is towing.  
EcoBoost engines use gasoline direct injection and turbocharging to deliver fuel-economy gains of up to 20 percent and reduction of CO2 emissions of up to 15 percent, compared with larger-displacement engines. More than 500,000 EcoBoost engines have been sold globally, including 250,000 in the Ford F-150.
The Ford Atlas Concept goes further to save fuel through a combination of active aerodynamic elements that reduce wind resistance. They include:
Active Grille Shutters: Automatic shutters behind the grille stay open when extra engine cooling is needed, such as during low-speed stop-and-go driving or while working in hot weather. The shutters automatically close to improve aerodynamics when cruising on the highway at steady speeds
Active Wheel Shutters: Automatic shutters in the wheels are hidden to improve style at rest and low speeds, but automatically close at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics. Self-charging batteries use energy from the wheels’ motion to power the shutters
Drop-Down Front Air Dam: A drop-down front wind spoiler lowers at highway speeds to improve underbody airflow. The air dam is raised at low speeds to improve ground clearance – helpful for off-roading
Power Running Boards: Auto-deploying running boards help passengers enter the truck at rest and tuck up against the truck when it is moving to improve aerodynamics and ground clearance 
The combination of these fuel-saving features saves more than 2 mpg on the highway without diminishing towing or hauling capability.
Work and play smarter, not harder
Ford Atlas Concept is a rolling showcase of features that improve capability, durability and productivity to meet the diverse needs of pickup truck owners. Features include:
Dual-Purpose Tailgate Step and Cargo Cradle: The acclaimed Ford Tailgate Step goes a step further by adding the ability to also act as a cargo cradle – lifting and holding extra-long cargo items above the truck and freeing valuable bed spaceTrailer Backup Assist: This segment-first innovation allows drivers to back a trailer with the twist of a knob. Ford research shows that backing a trailer is often the most intimidating task a truck customer can face
Dynamic Hitch Assist: Hitching a trailer can be time consuming and difficult. Dynamic Hitch Assist helps precisely line up the truck’s hitch with the trailer coupling, eliminating maneuvering guesswork by showing visual cues in the truck’s center display screen
360-Degree Point-of-View Camera: A Ford truck first, the system gives a bird’s-eye view of the truck to help position the vehicle in tight places or when there are obstacles near the truck – such as on a busy job site or grocery store parking lot
LED Headlamps and Taillamps: Advanced LED lighting offers better road illumination than conventional halogen or HID lights and lasts longer. LED lamps also offer near-instant response, giving valuable extra warning time for following traffic
LED Cargo Box and Side Mirror Lighting: Advanced, powerful yet efficient LED lighting brightly lights the cargo box and job site after the sun goes down with minimal battery drain compared to standard headlights or plug-in lights
Hidden Cargo Ramps: Lightweight, durable loading ramps stowed below the cargo box can be quickly removed and set up to assist with loading wheeled items into the bed – from landscaping equipment to dirt bikes