While BMW and Bentley propose nearly impossible concept cars with shape-shifting wheel wells and holographic butlers, you can always turn to Toyota for something practical. Toyota’s new concept car, the uBox, allows for transformation in a somewhat more realistic way, through customization via 3D printing.
Designed to appeal to Generation Z, also known as Millenials, the uBox has a reconfigurable interior, allowing drivers to change the car from a mobile office into a recreational vehicle. Seats can be removed and nested to allow for more space on the car’s low floor. The vents, dashboard bezels, and door trim are all 3D printed for personalization purposes. Toyota envisions an online community where drivers can share ideas and ultimately 3D print the parts. The uBox also features an all-electric powertrain, which will also allow riders to power their electronics through 110-volt sockets through the inside and outside of the car.
The uBox is the result of two-year collaboration with graduate students at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). The program, called Deep Orange, saw students involved in very step of vehicle development, all the way from market research to engineering design and manufacturing. Johnell Brooks, an associate professor in Clemson’s graduate engineering program, says of the work with Toyota Motor North America designers and engineers, “Deep Orange gives students’ hands-on experience with the entire vehicle development process, from identifying the market opportunity through the vehicle build. It’s like automotive boot camp for the real world, and it wouldn’t happen without industry partners like Toyota.”
Uniquely, the students developed a pultrusion technique for constructing carbon fiber rails bonded with aluminum for a curved glass roof. Toyota Executive Program Manager Craig Payne elaborates, “The roof pultrusion was something unexpected and very interesting when they first started talking about the concept. The fact that they were able to achieve an industry-first manufacturing technique as students speaks volumes for this program.”
The uBox was unveiled at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress and Exposition at the Cobo Center in Detroit on April 12th. Attendees will have an opportunity to see the vehicle there until April 14. If you happen to be in Detroit, now’s your chance to see the uBox in person. Now, if only we could get every manufacturer – or every world leader for that matter – to listen to the youth, we might just have a sustainable future.