Wondering what happens when you task a group of college students with designing an automobile for the modern era? You end up with the uBox, a concept car that was designed, engineered, and hand-built by graduate students at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).
The uBox is the result of a two-year "Deep Orange" collaboration between Clemson University's geeky gearheads and Toyota Motor North America designers and engineers. It's unlike any other vehicle out there, and it's intended to appeal to the next generation of car buyers, the busy and environmentally aware Gen-Z crowd.
"Deep Orange gives students’ hands-on experience with the entire vehicle development process, from identifying the market opportunity through the vehicle build," says Johnell Brooks, an associate professor in Clemson's graduate engineering program. "It's like automotive boot camp for the real world, and it wouldn’t happen without industry partners like Toyota."
Inside and out, the uBox concept screams Gen-Z. It has a distinctive look on the exterior that's supposed to appeal to both males and females, and on the inside, several parts of the electric vehicle can be personalized with 3D printing, such as the vents, dashboard display bezels, and trim.
More than just looks, the interior is easily transformed into a makeshift office environment for self-employed people to run their business or busy bees who work remotely. It can also accommodate more passengers or bulky cargo, depending on how the interior is arranged.
Toyota's engineers were particularly impressed with a unique pultrusion technique the students developed that allows composite carbon fiber rails bonded with aluminum to support a curved glass roof. It's a design that both provides structure and allows more light into the uBox, making a more feasible office on the road.
It's not yet known if Toyota will run with the concept and turn it into a commercial product.