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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Ford Airstream Takes the Road of the Future

Ford Motor Company and RV maker Airstream teamed up for the 2007 Ford Airstream concept, introduced at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. Boasting a wildly futuristic design inside and out, the Airstream looked at possibilities for crossovers way down the road. These possibilities included every aspect of the automobile, from exterior styling and access to interior layout and new in-car entertainment dreams, to a next-generation powertrain solution.


Among the features added purely for the fun of it was a 360-degree screen in the rear passenger area for mood lighting (playing an endless lava lamp or a digital fireplace), for in-car entertainment, or even as a live camera feed of the outside world. (Over the coming days, we’ll publish our interview with Ford designer Freeman Thomas around the digital fireplace in a video podcast. Keep looking! BTW, Airstream was AutoPacific’s Jim Hall’s favorite concept)

HySeries: Plug-In Fuel Cell
Chevrolet, with their Volt (click here for our story), was not the only manufacturer showing off the possibility of a plug-in fuel cell. The Volt took a sporty shape with a cool exterior that implied speed and nimble handling, but the Airstream played on the idea that the journey is more important than the destination.

Airstream was designed around a plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell system, HySeries in Ford-speak. HySeries is envisioned to run on electric power at all times with a Ballard-supplied fuel cell half the weight and cost of today’s, as well as being able to operate below freezing. In this concept, the fuel cell powered lithium-ion batteries, which provided motive power. The combination is said to be capable of an ultimate range of 305 miles. The powertrain is involved in real-world testing, moving a new-for-2007MY Ford Edge instead of a fancy concept.

Some criticized Ford’s decision to put the experimental powertrain in such an outlandish package, as the Airstream gets more attention for looks than powertrain. Chevrolet’s approach wasn’t more realistic, but Volt evoked a sports car feel, and sports cars beg the question “How fast does it go?” The Airstream spoke to our restless nature and the desire to see the country on our own terms and in our own time. Ford could have simply put the Edge that they’re using to test the HySeries system on the stand, but going that route would render the cutting edge powertrain invisible. The Airstream begs for attention and is just as futuristic as the HySeries powertrain.


Why Team with Airstream?
Apparently, as baby boomers get nearer retirement they are buying more RVs, and sales are experiencing a surge. But these active boomers, Ford says, are also looking for smaller, more nimble, and more fuel-efficient products than a traditional RV. The resulting concept is a Ford crossover SUV with Airstream personality. The asymmetric doors and windows, as well as the vibrant orange window graphics, are bold as well as easier for loading of people and stuff.
The Airstream took inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as well, most clearly in the optimistic approach to the future. Interior fantasy includes the lounge atmosphere and colors (cosmic red and white). The side door opens up to allow full viewing of the lounge area rear seating, also allowing the family to pull up, sit on the couch, and check out the Grand Canyon, furthering the idea of a new generation of open-road vehicles.

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