2006 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/7/2006)
Following a year of near-record gas prices in the U.S., the newest Ford truck concept takes on the question of fuel economy directly. The F-250 Super Chief is Ford’s first concept to sport the unique ability to burn three kinds of fuel — hydrogen, ethanol blend, or gasoline.
In hydrogen mode, Ford claims the Super Chief’s powertrain would be up to 12 percent better in fuel economy than a normally aspirated V-10 engine, while generating 99 percent less carbon dioxide. Switching modes, from hydrogen to either ethanol blend or gas, would be as simple as flicking a switch — although going the other way, from ethanol or gas to hydrogen, would require idling to bring the supercharger up to speed (it’s not engaged outside of hydrogen-fuel mode).
Wrapped in a stout, creased truck body, the supercharged V-10 engine and its Tri-Flex fuel system can in theory run 500 miles on a tank of fuel. The concept anticipates a day when hydrogen and its fueling stations will begin to emerge as a viable alternative to gasoline and M85 ethanol blend.
The tri-fuel capability is dubbed Tri-Flex by Ford, which has been campaigning its environmentally friendly technologies in the media of late. Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas, has been underscoring Ford’s commitment to building more innovative vehicles, and the Super Chief neatly encapsulates the company’s dual mission of keeping buyers interested in big trucks that drive big profits, and of conveying some green street credibility on the company at the same time. As a part of that commitment, Ford has promised to build a quarter-million flex-fuel vehicles in the year ahead.
The Super Chief clearly indicates the direction in which the heavy-duty Ford pickup will evolve, Ford hints. The tall grille, 24-inch wheels, and sharply folded lines are teamed with a six-foot pickup bed; the two extra feet of bed length found on today’s truck have been absorbed into the cabin, which sports rear doors with three-point hinges for easier access. Like Honda’s Ridgeline, the Super Chief has an under-bed storage tray for secure stowage.
Inspired in name by Super Chief trains, the concept also sports an ultra-luxe interior trimmed in American walnut wood, aluminum, and brown leather, fitted with power-operated ottomans for the rear seats. LED headlamps and a glass roof bring light to the road ahead and into the cabin.
For more on the Super Chief concept, stay tuned to TCC’s coverage of the Detroit auto show as it opens to the media today.