Geneva : Ford B-MaxPOSTED BY admin ON 11 February 2012
The B-Max is an MPV derivative of Ford’s highly popular Fiesta hatchback. But unlike normal MPVs (or even cars), the B-Max features a unique sliding rear door that does away with the conventional center pillar, also known as the B-pillar. Easy Door Access System, Ford’s pillarless sliding door solution allows easy loading of large cargo and eases entry and exit for occupants in tight spaces. Conventional hinged doors only on similar size cars only offer around 0.7 meter of opening space. By adopting sliding doors and deleting the central pillars, Ford doubled the B-Max’s opening space to 1.5 meters.
In developing the concept, designers spent several days observing drivers in their daily routine, going shopping or picking up their children from school, to understand exactly what customers really wanted in a compact car.
“Door systems like this have been a designer’s dream for many years,” said Stefan Lamm, exterior design director, Ford of Europe. “We have taken the concept from an idea on a designer’s sketch pad, to a stylish and versatile product on the showroom floor.”
“We set ourselves the challenge of re-imagining the small car,” he added. “People are struggling with the spatial challenges of city driving and we wanted to find a new solution.”
“The door concept means you can load really large items, more than 2.3 meters long, through the side doors,” said Ernst Reim, Chief Interior Designer, Ford of Europe. “This makes a trip to the furniture store, or even a day at the beach with your surfboard, more realistic.”
Engineers then took on the challenge of producing a safe and practical vehicle which would meet those needs. While removing the B-pillars dramatically improves access width, the pair of pillars are a critical part of any vehicle’s body structure. Ford’s solution was to move the high-strength body-structure from the central body pillars and integrated it directly into the doors to ensure excellent crash protection, particularly in the event of a side impact.
Special ultra-high-strength, hot-stamped boron steels which provide up to five times the strength of conventional mild steel, were used in key parts of the body and doors to create an extremely strong and stiff structure without adding extra weight. In layman’s terms, the steel used in constructing the doors are of a higher grade than that normally used by manufacturers for the car body itself.
Together with a patented locking system, the doors with integrated pillars restore the stiffness lost when deleting the B-pillars. Normally, the door latches are placed at the halfway mark of the door’s height. But because the B-pillars are now deleted, the latches are now placed at the top and bottom, latching onto the strongest sides of the car’s body. Ford of Europe’s product development quality director, Darren Palmer, said the door latches were designed in such as way that in a side impact the crash forces would push the latches further into position, rather than tending to pull them apart.
The process of designing the door structure involved intense testing and analysis at every stage. More than 1,000 detailed computer simulations were conducted over three years to optimize side impact crash performance; each simulation taking 24 hours to complete and using the equivalent computer-power of eight high-end PCs. These simulations were then tested in the real world through a further 50 physical side impact crashes.
Greater use of ultra-high strength, hot-stamped boron steel together with a patented locking system restore the stiffness lost when deleting conventional B-pillars from the body.
“We engineered the body to keep all the benefits of the new door concept, while making the structure strong, stiff and light,” Palmer said. He further added “Creating a strong, stable body is great for handling. The B-MAX is just as stiff as the latest Fiesta, and will be just as fun to drive too.”
The sliding doors however, are manually operated, which we think is fine considering that it is a relatively small car and keeping the price affordable is a bigger concern.
The B-Max will debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. Darren Palmer also said that the Easy Door Access System is scaleable and could be used in other segments in future, so there is a possibility that it may appear in Ford’s bigger MPV models like the C-Max and S-Max. However, the likelihood will not be high as being larger cars, there is less of a need to further increase door access width for those models.
On whether will the B-Max debut in Malaysia, that is still unconfirmed. Note that the B-Max is only a 5-seater. European buyers are not keen on proper 7-seater barges. Utility space is more important that the number of seats. B-Max has a cargo volume of 326 liters with all 5-seats up and 1293 liters with the rear seats folded.
Read more about the B-Max here.