A purposeful concept designed by students

Toyota designers and engineers have spent the last two years collaborating with students at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research to design a new car. The project is called “Deep Orange” and, after two years of work, the team has designed, engineered, and hand-built what it is calling the uBox Concept. The project is intended to develop interested from the “next generation” of car buyers, dubbed Generation Z, and is designed to provide utility and recreation on the weekend but serve as an office space during the week.

Johnell Brooks, an Associate Professor in Clemson’s graduate engineering program, said, “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 uBox Concept made its debut on April 12th at the Society of Engineers World Congress and Exposition in Detroit, Michigan. It features an um… interesting design on the outside and a good portion of the interior components can be customized and created with 3D printing technology. All told, it isn’t a bad design for a group of students embarking on their first major design and engineering project, so let’s take a closer look at the uBox concept and see just how the students did.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2017 Toyota uBox Concept.

Exterior

2016 Toyota uBox Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 672545

Right away, there is no mistaking the uBox for anything but a concept. It features a boxy design with very dominating body lines. According to the press release that accompanied the uBox when it debuted, the concept embodies “a muscular stance that looks like it’s sprung forward in motion, even when standing still.”

Interestingly, the windshield is recessed away from the A-pillars, which bolt to the roof and appear to connect to the chassis behind the nose.

At the very front, the concept has a stretched-out hexagonal nose with “Toyota” written in huge letters in the middle. The headlights come in the form of LED strips the outline the inner edges of the nose on each side. Down below there is a squared-off bumper with a small skid plate at the bottom. Interestingly, the windshield is recessed away from the A-pillars, which bolt to the roof and appear to connect to the chassis behind the nose. The windshield is large and curved to give a wrap-around appearance.

Moving to the sides, we see a distinct, curved body line that travels from the rear of the front wheel arch toward the rear, elevating the father back it goes. There is a recessed area above the side skirts and at the bottom of the rear doors, providing what may be a step for easier access. Those doors, by the way, are suicide doors and open opposite of each other – similar to that of extended cab trucks.

The images we have here don’t give us a good look at the rear, but it looks to be rather flat and probably features LED taillights, similar to the headlights up front. It does feature a large, two-piece glass roof that is outlined in carbon fiber. As you can see from the side profile, the two roof pieces don’t line up perfectly, but you really can’t complain considering it was designed and built by students.

Interior

2016 Toyota uBox Concept High Resolution Interior
- image 672543

When you look at the inside of the uBox concept, it gets even more interesting. Most of the interior, including all of the trim panels, look to be done up in carbon fiber, and some of them are 3D printed, which leaves room for customization. There are four seats that are somewhat loosely wrapped in a black and gray fabric, and the sliding rails in the floor allow the seats to slide back and forth so that the interior can be arranged as necessary to haul cargo. There are standard, 110-volt sockets scattered throughout the interior to allow charging of electronic devices or the use of power tools.

Despite being rough around the edges, the concept actually looks like it can be rather comfortable to sit in

The dash is a rather interesting design. It is curved to meet the contour of the windshield and features a flat top. It also appears to be made from carbon fiber. There are four vents scatter across the top of the dashboards face, and there is what appears to be an iPad mounted in the center that likely controls any entertainment features inside the vehicle. There is a small digital display perched on top of the dash that most likely supplies current speed as well as information about the on-board batteries.

It looks like the center console can also move, and features two slide out trays that can function as table tops for those who need to work on the fly. The most commendable part about the car itself is the exterior visibility from the inside. With the side windows, large windshield, and glass roof, you can easily see everything that is going on outside the vehicle. Despite being rough around the edges, the concept actually looks like it can be rather comfortable to sit in, plus the front passengers can have almost unlimited leg room in the front if the seats are slid to the rear.

Drivetrain

2016 Toyota uBox Concept High Resolution Interior
- image 672539

We don’t know a whole lot about what makes the concept go, but it does appear to be driveable and is said to use a “compact, dual-purpose, all-electric powertrain." It’s unclear whether or not the concept is two-wheel or all-wheel drive. Considering it was designed as a utility vehicle, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is all-wheel drive. Another mystery is the type of batteries used, to power the electric motors. In one of the interior images, we can see what appears to be two battery packs attached to the driver side wall in the rear, and I bet there is another set on the passenger side.

As of the time of this writing, overall range, battery capacity, top speed, and other performance figures have been kept a secret, but I would imagine a design like this would have a rather short range and a top speed that approaches 50 mph. That’s just a guess, based primarily on the size of what I believe to be the battery packs, so I could be completely wrong.

Prices

In all honesty, there isn’t really a point in talking about pricing because this vehicle is just a concept, and a rough concept at that. If this thing were to make its way into production, it would have to be cleaned up for a better fit and finish. Considering it is made primarily from carbon fiber and 3D printed parts, production would probably be cheap, so I would expect this thing, in complete production form, to go for maybe $20,000 at most.

Competition

BMW i3

2015 BMW i3 High Resolution Exterior
- image 528088

I couldn’t write this piece without comparing the uBox Concept to the BMW i3, considering it has a similar design. Of course, the fit and finish and the exterior design are much more defined and modern, but it does feature the same door style, as well as a similar rear end. In all honesty, it almost looks like the uBox concept was based loosely on the BMW i3.

The i3 has a range of up to 80 miles on the standard battery pack but can go as far as 150 miles with BMW’s range extender. All told, the i3 delivers 170 horsepower from its all-electric drivetrain and can hit a 60-mph sprint in as little as seven seconds with the standard battery. Adding the range extender does increase weight, so when it is equipped with a range extender, the 0-to-60 time increases to 7.8 seconds. At the time of this writing, the BMW i8 starts out at $42,400 in standard form or $46,250 when equipped with the range extender.

Read our full review on the BMW i3 here.

Conclusion

2016 Toyota uBox Concept High Resolution Interior
- image 672540

Where do I even start? The concept is still pretty rough around the edges. The interior doesn’t have that smooth of a finish, and the exterior is boxy as hell. In short, the concept is kind of ugly. While that might seem harsh, it’s important to remember that this thing was designed and built from the ground up by students. Sure, there was input from Toyota engineers along the way, but I have a feeling that the students did most of the work.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never built and designed a car from scratch, so I have to give props to these students. It is functional, purposeful, all electric, and it actually drives. For being the first vehicle design these students have actually turned into a real-life concept, I would say that it turned out pretty good for what it is.

  • Leave it
    • Boxy design
    • Weird front end

Press Release

Most of Toyota’s North American vehicles are engineered in Southeast Michigan. The newest concept to wear the automaker’s famous badge, however, has its roots firmly planted in the red clay of South Carolina.

2016 Toyota uBox Concept High Resolution Interior
- image 672540

Designed, engineered and hand-built by graduate students at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), the vehicle is the result of a two-year collaboration with Toyota Motor North America designers and engineers. The result is an innovative, flexible concept called uBox that is intended to appeal to the next generation 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.

"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."

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:

A bold, youthful and distinctive exterior design that aligns with generation Z’s personality trait to stand out, embodying a muscular stance that looks like it’s sprung forward in motion, even when standing still.

A versatile interior that can be rearranged for various activities, from working or operating a business, to hauling bulky cargo. A low floor allows for reconfigurable, removable seats on sliding tracks that can be nested.

2016 Toyota uBox Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 672541

Vents, dashboard display bezels and door trim that can be personalized and made with 3-D printing technology, and an online community for owners where they can share design ideas.

A compact, dual-purpose, all-electric powertrain providing a fun driving experience and emission-free stationary energy to power consumer electronics, power tools or other devices through various 110-volt sockets located throughout the interior and exterior.

One feature in particular caught the attention of Toyota Executive Program Manager Craig Payne, a unique pultrusion technique developed by the students that allows composite carbon fiber rails bonded with aluminum to support a curved glass roof.

“The roof pultrusion was something unexpected and very interesting when they first started talking about the concept,” said Payne. “The fact that they were able to achieve an industry-first manufacturing technique as students speaks volumes for this program.”

“The collaboration with Toyota was extremely fruitful,” said Paul Venhovens, endowed chair for automotive systems integration at CU-ICAR. “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.”

2016 Toyota uBox Concept High Resolution Interior
- image 672542

Toyota and the Clemson Deep Orange Team will unveil the uBox Tuesday, April 12th at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress and Exposition at the Cobo Center in Detroit. It will then remain on display in the Cobo atrium through Thursday, April 14.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder:
Related Manufacturers