Future small Ford cars could be driven by motors in the wheels, leaving more space in the cabin and luggage area. And the potential to park a car sideways.
Ford's Fiesta-based eWheelDrive concept uses electric motors housed inside each of the rear wheels, leaving the under-bonnet cavity -- usually occupied by an engine and gearbox -- free for a big boost in cargo space.
Future production models could boast smaller overall proportions, but maintain existing levels of interior space. Ford suggests that such packaging benefits could result in four-seaters that are no larger than an existing two-seat city car, such as Smart's ForTwo.
The technology for the Fiesta eWheelDrive concept has been developed in conjunction with Shaeffler, a component manufacturer based in Germany.
Shaeffler's in-wheel motors also have the ability to steer, which could lead to production models with the ability to park sideways. This would prove a boon for congested city environments.
The in-wheel motors also combine all drive, braking, and stability aids within the motor unit, which will offer designers freedom to create future production models that appear vastly different to today's city-car norm.
"This highly integrated wheel-hub drive makes it possible to rethink the city car without restrictions, and could be a key factor in new vehicle concepts and automobile platforms in the future," said Peter Gutzmer, chief technical officer, Schaeffler.
Ford and Schaeffler plan to develop a further two driveable eWheelDrive concepts by 2015, with the aim to improving the motors' integration and fun-to-drive factor.