Toyota unveils student-designed uBox concept
Toyota has unveiled a new concept car that was jointly developed with Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). Called uBox, the concept was design to appeal to Gen Z buyers.
The joint partnership, known as Deep Orange, has been working on the uBox concept for the last two years. As its name implies, the uBox is essentially a box on wheels with a highly versatile interior. A low floor makes loading easy and the uBox’s seats can be removed or repositioned along sliding tracks. Dashboard bezels and air vents are intended to be easily replaced with units made with a 3-D printer.
Though no details were given on the uBox’s powertrain, Toyota says the funky concept is a pure EV. In order to make the most of that electric drivetrain, the uBox features 110-volt sockets throughout its cabin.
Although the program is described as an “automotive boot camp for the real world,” Toyota did gain some insights during the development process of the uBox. Students came up with a unique pultrusion technique that allowed carbon fiber composites to be bonded with aluminum. The technique was used to support the uBox’s glass roof.
“The roof pultrusion was something unexpected and very interesting when they first started talking about the concept,” said Toyota Executive Program Manager Craig Payne. “The fact that they were able to achieve an industry-first manufacturing technique as students speaks volumes for this program.”
With ages ranging from 0-17, Gen Z isn’t drawing much attention from the auto industry right now, but they soon will. Gen Z comprises 23 percent of the U.S. population and will have a buying power pegged at $3.2 trillion by 2020.