The F150 Is Going Aluminum
January 2, 2014

The F150 Is Going Aluminum

We all know that aluminum is lighter than steel, it doesn’t rust like steel, and can be as strong as steel by using the technology we have available today. But using it for a pickup truck has sparked a little controversy and criticism with comments relating to it as a rolling beer can.

Yes, beer cans are made from aluminum, but they are very thin-walled and can easily be crushed. Ford has plans to build an F150 made from aluminum, although not the same grade as what’s in the aluminum can, but from the same military grade as the armed forces uses.

This could be a risky move for Ford. It could turn out to be a winning effort or it could turn out to be a failure. It all depends on how the public receives it. Analysts believe if Ford can make this a successful venture, then it will pave the way for others to follow suit.

“Like alternative drivetrain technology, lightweight materials will be a key component in meeting the fuel economy standards of the future. Ford’s use of aluminum in the next F-150 foreshadows a widespread trend we’ll be seeing across every vehicle segment in the coming years,” says Karl Brauer of Kelley Blue Book in a statement to USA Today.

The switch to aluminum panels and other parts will cut 700 pounds off the truck. Even though the same component made from aluminum is thicker than its steel counterpart, it is much lighter.

Not only will the use of aluminum parts reduce the total weight of the truck, it will also save on fuel to comply with new regulations. Rumor also has it that other lightweight materials could replace heavier parts, according to Motortrend.

The EcoBoost V-6 engine has been very popular. The 2013 F150 came with either the 5.0-L or the 6.2-L engine. It’s possible one of the V-8s may be replaced by the EcoBoost V-6.

As it stands now, the F150 has been the best-selling pickup for 37 years and the best selling-vehicle for 32 years. The next generation aluminum pickup will either keep up this tradition or the F150 will lose its place on top. Automotive News reports that the new truck is planned to be introduced at the Detroit Auto Show this month.

According to an anonymous source, Ford has asked Alcoa Inc. for some military-grade aluminum. Alcoa makes aluminum blast shields for military vehicles proceeding to the battlefield.

A researcher for IHS Automotive, Joe Langley stated, “This is already the most significant debut at the auto show. Everybody’s going to be dissecting that thing for a long time, especially since Ford will be taking such a big gamble.”

For the changeover, Ford is adding thousands of workers and engineers in order to make changes on the assembly line. IHS estimates Ford will need six weeks of downtime to complete the switchover at each of its assembly plants.

By 2025, the standard for fuel economy is a fleet-wide average of 54.5 mpg. Currently, the best F150 gets 23 mpg on highway. With the change to lightweight aluminum, engine refinements and the addition of a 2.7-L EcoBoost engine, the new F150 could be topping 30 mpg highway.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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