The all-new 2013 Ford Escape is sure to be a top seller when it’s released later this year. As part of its full redesign, the Escape will be fitted with revolutionary new acoustic, eco-friendly and fuel-efficient features. Ford designers and engineers have been hard at work, using an elliptical acoustic mirror that measures noise to give the Escape its quietest interior ever and integrating kenaf plant material within the Escape’s doors; these advancements promise a positive impact on those behind the wheel, as well as the surrounding environment.
Certain elements of acoustic mirrors date back nearly 100 years when the technology was used for detecting enemy aircraft along the coast of Great Britain during World War I. Today, this technology has developed into more sophisticated radar systems, and the engineers at Ford had another idea for its use.
Used by Ford for the first time when designing the all-new Escape, an elliptical acoustic mirror, which resembles a satellite dish with a microphone, can identify “hotspots” where noise penetrates the interior of the vehicle. The mirror measures both noises on the vehicle’s surface, as well as in the airflow. The result? A driving experience in which occupants can more easily – and enjoyably – listen to music and conversations, instead of outside noise.
At the Ford Aeroacoustic Wind Tunnel in Germany, Ford’s engineering team worked tirelessly on the details of the Escape. First, major changes were made to the Escape’s shape, particularly the exterior mirrors and A-pillar. The elliptical acoustic mirror’s technology was then used to measure wind noise. After more than 160 hours of engineering (over 20 clay model vehicle shapes each day), the team was able to optimize the shape of glass, doors and insulation. As Bill Gulker, Supervisor of Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) explains, “Using the elliptical acoustic mirror helped the team pinpoint the source of the noise. Previous technologies required more of a trial-and-error approach to finding the issue.”
Not only does the Escape’s new shape make it quieter than previous models, but also preliminary data shows that it will be one of the industry’s leaders in interior quietness. Specifically, changes to the A-pillar have helped ensure reduced noise in crosswind situations.
Interior noise improvement isn’t the only new feature creating buzz about the all-new Escape. Kenaf plant materials are replacing oil-based materials inside the vehicle’s doors, offsetting 300,000 pounds of oil-based resin per year in North America. In addition to these eco-friendly effects, the use of kenaf will reduce the weight of the door bolsters by 25 percent, increasing driver savings at the gas pump.
Kenaf is a tropical plant related to cotton and okra; its oil is often found in cosmetics, and its fiber can be used as an alternative to wood in the production of paper. Its upper leaves and shoots are even edible.
For the Escape, kenaf is combined with polypropylene in a 50-50 mixture. The door bolsters are manufactured in Greencastle, Indiana at the International Automotive Components (IAC) plant. “Kenaf and the other renewable materials in the Escape have made the vehicle more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient,” explained Laura Sinclair, Materials Engineer for Escape.
In addition to the kenaf plant inside its doors, the all-new Escape contains several other recycled and renewable materials including soy foam in the seats and head restraints, recycled plastic bottles in the carpeting, climate control gaskets made from recycled tires and over 10 pounds of scrap cotton salvaged from the manufacturing of denim jeans.
Thanks to these green innovations, the latest Escape meets the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) Vehicle Recycling Partnership goal that 85 percent of a vehicle is recyclable. The Escape is also expected to achieve best-in-class fuel economy.
With better noise reduction, more eco-friendly materials and outstanding fuel efficiency, the all-new Escape is turning the heads of both consumers and its competition.
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