We're calling it the tortoise exhaust.
Jeep's boss has been talking smack about Ford's off-road ability of late, claiming that buyers of the Ford Explorer Timberline are being tricked. Ford has responded in a classy manner, simply pointing out that the Bronco and other new vehicles have been welcomed with open arms by buyers, and that's all that matters. While Jeep owners may feel that their vehicles are more capable off-road and Bronco owners will feel similarly, there's no denying that both brands are brilliant at what they do and are always looking to improve the capability of their vehicles.
To that end, Ford has filed patents for a new exhaust system that can improve the off-roading experience. It sounds weird, but bear with us.
The patents discovered by CarBuzz were filed in both Germany and the US, implying that the new invention would be fitted to a vehicle that is sold globally. Simply put, the invention is for a retractable exhaust pipe, but what has that got to do with off-roading, or any part of the driving experience, for that matter?
By and large, most vehicles have a greater approach angle than departure angle, and this means that, while you can easily get up an incline without damaging the front of your vehicle, the rear will often scrape. According to the filing, the exhaust pipe is one area that is often scratched, compressed, or deformed, and "this can have a negative impact on the way the customer perceives the capabilities of the vehicle." So how does Ford's invention work?
"A retractile tailpipe system may include an exhaust tip physically separated from an exhaust tube in order to allow relative movement between both components. An exhaust tip retract module (ETRM) is attached and fixed to the upstream exhaust tube in a rearmost possible position that may also act as the travel limit for the exhaust tip. The ETRM is configured to have an actuator, a gear, and multiple linear bearings. The exhaust tip includes a set of extension shafts that mate with the linear bearings in the ETRM."
The filing goes on to explain that an electric motor can control the gear, moving the pipe's extension shafts through a rack-and-pinion system. "As a result, a backward or forward movement of the extension shafts may occur, such that the exhaust tip either retracts or extends to a default position."
It seems rather simple now, if a little overengineered, but it's a way of improving off-roading ability, even if only by a couple of degrees, without redesigning the entire vehicle. All that remains to be seen is if this is cost-effective and innovative enough to make production.