Graduate students at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) have designed, engineered and hand-built a vehicle as the result of a two-year collaboration with Toyota Motor North America designers and engineers. The innovative, flexible concept, called uBox, is intended to appeal to the next-gen of car buyers: Gen-Z.
The CU-ICAR / Toyota collaboration, called Deep Orange, immerses students into every aspect of automotive development, from market research and design studies to engineering design and manufacturing.
Johnell Brooks, Associate Professor, Graduate Engineering Program, Clemson University, commented: "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."
The typical customer for uBox is a young entrepreneur who wants a vehicle that can provide utility and recreation on the weekend but that can also offer office space or other career-centric or lifestyle uses during the week.
Some of the many features of uBox include:
One feature in particular that caught the attention of Craig Payne, Executive Program Manager, Toyota, was a unique pultrusion technique developed by the students that allows composite carbon fibre rails bonded with aluminium to support a curved glass roof.
Payne commented: “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 programme.”
“The collaboration with Toyota was extremely fruitful. The Toyota management team constantly challenged the students with justifying their design and engineering decisions based on brand essence, real-world customers and what the students believed the future would embrace. This experience can simply not be gained from a text book,” added Paul Venhovens, endowed chair for automotive systems integration at CU-ICAR.