By on September 24, 2016

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Harkening back to its early days as a purveyor of horseless carriages, Ford Motor Company has patented a no-frills folding vehicle for those who want something more than a bicycle.

Intended for developing countries with poor infrastructure, the patent filing uncovered by Autoblog details a lightweight, endlessly configurable vehicle with a collapsible frame.

Ford describes the battery-powered vehicle as a “simple, ultra-low cost, commuter vehicle” that “could create a whole new global market, filling the price gap between bicycles and automobiles.”

Built on an X-frame with members that pivot at a central axis, the vehicle’s length can be shortened to fit into cramped parking spots. Ford lists heavily congested cities in China and India as a potential market.

Designed to fit the user’s needs, the vehicle can be configured a number of ways. Passenger capacity varies from one to six people, with the option of a removable pickup bed for added utility. A tandem X-frame structure would allow for more layout options.

Power could come from an internal combustion engine or an electric drivetrain, though the EV option seems the easiest. The document describes electric hub motors or a conventional motor driving one of the axles, powered by fixed or removable batteries.

When Ford claims the vehicle is simple, it means simple. The company says the vehicle’s seats can be of the rigid variety, or “fabric sling seats designed to attach to the vehicle cross-members.” Forget about adjustable lumbar support. And who needs suspension? The body structure can soak up those bumps through various pivot points. Not surprisingly, there’s nary a mention of cupholders in this patent.

Ford seems pretty sure it can make this sub-car for the masses a reality. The vehicle’s simple construction and flexible configurations “create a business case the can profitably support an ultra-low sales price,” the automaker says.

While Ford clearly has its eye on mass production for developing countries, the vehicle could find a home in other locales. The automaker sees the vehicle serving as a rental runabout at vacation resorts, or as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle.

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29 Comments on “Ford Patents the Simplest Car You Can Imagine...”


  • avatar
    stuki

    Some portal axles on a thing like that, and who needs a Unimog?

    Hope Ford keeps the reconfigurability in mind for future US market trucks as well. Being able to swap a pickup bed for a passenger compartment (or a service body, flatbed, camper, boxvan…..), perhaps with a compression boot or accordion between the two, is a theoretical fundamental advantage of BOF designs that is tougher to realize in a unibody. Could prove very practical for many uses and people.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Vulpy!

    “the rear seats 115 of a 4-passenger model vehicle 100 may be removed, and a 4-foot box 270 may be added, resulting in a 2-passenger pick-up.”

    and

    “The box 270 may be configured to pivot to a dump position”

    Mulch!

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      … but highly unlikely to be street legal in the US, so unless I want to move to one of those “developing countries”, this product is useless to me. (I also expect it would be too slow to be safe on the open highway here in the US and simply too flimsy to meet American safety standards.)

      Would be nice to see some images of the patent design, though.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Golf cars are legal in some U.S.A. cities. The small Chinese mini pick-up trucks are legal on city and county roads but not state hi ways in my area.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Those Chinese models are usually just LHD rip off versions of Japanese Kei trucks. Kia also made a LHD Kei sized truck/van based on the Mazda version of course, called the Towner. They sold it in Korea and Latin America I believe.

      I want a Japanese version, they’re legal (as you explained) in my area, too. I would really like a chance to try out a Daihatsu HiJet deck van. Basically a Kei van with an open cargo area, seats 4 with everyone getting their own door with the rears being sliders from the van. The track for them runs below what would be the window line of the enclosed van but is now the top of the bedside (unibody bed design). Neat little vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        In Oklahoma you can actually tag a true golf cart for street use, but the limitations are such that you can really only drive it in your neighborhood. The major streets where I live are 45mph+, and you can only drive golf carts on 35mph or lower streets.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      This looks like something that could be registered as a Quadricycle in countries that subscribe to the UNECE standards. It isn’t terribly difficult to get a golf cart, ATV, or tractor to be quadricycle compliant.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Without pictures this is very hard to picture in my mind’s eye. It sounds like a grandiose version of a folding bicycle. And if it was April 1st, I’d swear that this article was a prank.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    I guess it’s better to focus on things like this rather than making cars and trucks that, you know, work properly.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I’ll bite. What exactly did Ford do to make you so grumpy about them?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        In my personal case, it’s owning a Ford that cost me more per month just to keep running (not counting gas) than a car payment at a time when I supposedly couldn’t afford a car loan according to the bank. It’s owning a Ford that cost me $5000 to make it roadworthy after it had supposedly (paperwork to prove it) passed a state inspection prior to purchase. It’s owning a Ford with less than 20K on the clock and needing a complete hydraulic clutch system overhaul for several thousand dollars mere days after acquisition. It’s a brand that has NEVER been able to prove its claims of reliability over the course of 30 years. Even Chrysler has treated me better than that!

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          No it was not Ford that screwed you it was the person you purchased it from in that case of having to spend $5000 to make “roadworthy” or the mechanic that charged you “several thousand dollars” to put on $200 worth of parts that takes 4 hrs tops.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            It’s Ford who screwed me because the broken ones were all Ford parts that should NOT have broken. It’s Ford who screwed me because it was a Ford dealership that charged ridiculous rates. It’s Ford who screwed me because Ford is screwing owners left and right with both new cars and services. I don’t know a SINGLE Ford owner who doesn’t have problems with their cars and in most cases suffer with them rather than pay the exorbitant repair prices.

            For instance, in 1980, what would you expect a timing chain replacement to cost on the 302 Windsor engine? Would you have guessed $750? And then after the timing chain replacement, would you expect the car to accelerate up a 10% grade from a dead stop with no external load and only the driver on board? The car, never one for serious power though supposedly rated at a mere 185 horses (for a V8?) ended up with less horsepower than a 1962 VW Beetle! I had to get the engine swapped for a small-block 351… after which everything… I mean everything…attached to the engine needed replacing within the next year.

            That Ford, by the way, was a one-owner car throughout its life from brand-new until I traded it in on an ’86 Buick LeSabre ‘T’type. That car never failed me from the time I purchased it to the time someone tried to cross the highway in front of me more than a year later. It’s the ONLY used car I’d ever owned that never cost me a penny for maintenance. I bought two more used vehicles after that and both of them tried to nickel and dime me to death. Since then, I’ve only bought new and never bought a Ford again.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          I had a used Land Cruiser that will see your 5000 and raise it by an additional 5000 and that was with me doing every bit of labor except assembling the short block and setting up the gears. Short blocks, differentials, and transmission electronics are spendy but following your logic, Toyota sucks!

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I’m describing three separate Fords in that statement, ‘Murica. A Gran Torino, an F-150 and a Ranger. The Ranger, so far, is proving the least expensive of the bunch after that repair, though the AC really sucks the horses down in hot weather.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            It sounds more like you buy crappy used cars and parts and don’t inspect them properly first, and live in an area with crappy dealers, than anything to do with a specific brand.

            “I don’t know a SINGLE Ford owner who doesn’t have problems with their cars and in most cases suffer with them rather than pay the exorbitant repair prices.

            For instance, in 1980…”

            Presently, everyone is having problems! For example, thirty years ago…

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            It’s not funny to me, brenschluss because I’m the one who spent more money than it was worth in every case AND I see others with brand-new Fords complaining just as loudly. But worse, you’re attempt at humor falls flat when you realize that, while I may have had to pay something for every used-car purchase I ever made (except one), GM products typically cost a fraction of what I paid for Ford repairs and they were all minor issues… again, except for one where a bloomin’ NYLON timing gear in an ’85 Toronado stripped and effectively destroyed the engine. The ”96 Camaro that replaced it gave me over 160,000 miles on essentially the same engine (obviously not nylon-geared) over the course of 8 single-owner years. I ended up selling that one to a guy wanting the body for a professional NHRA racing team. Another GM product purchased new while I still owned the Camaro gave me 130,000 miles with no major repairs… ever.

            GM always gave me better reliability than Ford, new or used. Even Chrysler products have given me better reliability than any of my Fords–Chrysler presumably notorious for their poor quality yet even my worst-case scenario with one still far less expensive than any of my Fords. “Built Ford Tough”? Well, if you’re talking body, I might give you that one; I never had a Ford body rust out on me. But then, none of the others did, either. Under the hood has always been a different story for me.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was pointing out that you’re offering anecdotes from the 80s (and they don’t flatter you, as it sounds like you’re buying used cars from private parties without due diligence,) to justify how you feel today.

            I might not be interested in a Chrysler, but it’s not because the ’85 New Yorker was junk.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “I was pointing out that you’re offering anecdotes from the 80s”

            No, I was offering anecdotes from four decades of car ownership, admittedly some of which were used but others obtained brand new. The Gran Torino was obtained brand new. The F-150 was obtained used (clearly used but surprisingly clean body.) The Ranger semi-used but purchased by my step-father and I have all the records of his maintenance. He had no idea the clutch was failing, even though I later discovered that it had been causing him troubles but he’d been ignoring them because it still did what he needed–drive to the home store and back, one trip at a time. Only on a multiple-stop trip would the clutch act up, at which point he’d let it cool down after which it worked again.

            Of course, you didn’t bother to ask if I’d done any ‘due diligence’ on any of them, did you?

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            So the most recent bought-new Ford on that list appears to be the Gran Torino, which would have been what, mid-70s? You’re right, and I’m sorry I said your anecdotes were from the 80s.

            After that car, you owned one pickup of indeterminate origins on which you were then ripped off for a shoddy repair, and another that was bought within the family from someone who just happened to forget to mention that they were ignoring some issues with the clutch.

            Am I incorrect? I’m just trying to figure out the timeline.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Do you enjoy making assumptions, brenschluss?

            Of Fords alone, the Gran Torino was the first newly-purchased one of the bunch; the Ranger was given to me at 20,000 miles (and 17 years old) by my step-father who purchased it brand new.

            Over the same time period I purchased several other cars, of which a ’75 Cutlass Supreme, a ’79 Dodge Aspen, an ’83 Mitsubishi Sport pickup, a ’96 Camaro, ’02 Saturn Vue, ’08 Wrangler Unlimited and a Fiat 500 were purchased as new or in the case of the Fiat, a demo with only 5,000 miles on the clock. Of all those new-purchased cars, none gave me any significant problems during ownership except the Jeep, which FCA has gone out of its way to correct despite the fact that it was really a Daimler design and materials issue that turned out to be a pot-metal handbrake ratchet arm breaking teeth and not properly releasing the brake over time. A really weird and near-impossible problem to troubleshoot but caused multiple seized rear brakes requiring replacement of drums, rotors and calipers each time. Even so, the Jeep was typically able to climb steep grades despite the drag of that brake until it seized, unlike the Gran Torino AFTER the timing chain replacement pulling no load whatsoever.

            Used was my first car, purchased not knowing the the engine block was cracked and pumping oil into the cooling system (took me a week and two gallons of oil to figure it out), my second built for steel-belted radial tires but sold with bias-ply and worn suspension (previous owner had run it hard, but didn’t know that until I traded that on the ’75 Cutlass, where the dealership’s shop recognized the car, Later came the ’86 Buick ‘T’-type, ’85 Toronado and finally the ’90 F-150. Of all of those, only the Buick required no repair services at all. The Toronado I loved for many reasons, but needed constant little details worked on, which until the timing gear shredded I was able to handle myself (including fixing the climate control head unit by re-soldering all the connections on the circuit board.)

            Even the F-150 I was able to handle once the brake system was rebuilt from end to end (rusted hard lines and dry-rotted soft lines) and the broken exhaust manifold was replaced (Like I said, I knew what I was getting into with that, but needed a truck immediately and simply didn’t have time or the money to shop around. It was easier and cheaper to fix a $2000 junker with a clean body than pay 5x as much and not know what could be wrong.) I could have parted the thing out for more than I paid for it BECAUSE it was so clean. I was actually offered my purchase price for the bed alone as it was totally rust free despite having operated in Pennsylvania for nearly twelve years. You could say I lost money on it in more ways than one, but even after I sold it (and yes, it had passed both the state safety inspection and the emissions check before it sold) the new owner ended up putting another thousand into it for other issues of which I was unaware. Even so, it’s now his daily driver because it gives him nearly double the fuel mileage of his much newer but large-engined Suburban at 19.5mpg highway (unloaded). He says the fuel mileage more than makes up for the little stuff he’s always fixing on it and he loves the radio I installed (as the factory one had been ripped out before I bought it (literally–the mounts were all broken) and the replacement was a piece of junk.

            So used has always cost me thousands more than purchase price, typically within a year of purchase, while new has typically (with two exceptions) cost me next to nothing to maintain. Fords have always cost me extra–always.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Vulpy, your past is depressing and your accounts of it overly long. We don’t care nor do we hold it against you.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Oh, I am so glad I depressed you, Kenmore. Please give me the opportunity to do it again.

  • avatar
    motormouth

    http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/worlds-first-flat-pack-truck-revealed

    Something like this?

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