Earlier this year, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) served as the location for the debut of Ford’s newest F-150 pickup, set to go on sale later this year as a 2015 model.
As expected, Ford’s Atlas Concept Truck from 2013 proved to be an extremely accurate sneak preview of the 2015 Ford F-150. To industry insiders, the similarity between the concept and the production model wasn’t much of a surprise. What was mildly surprising about the debut of the 2015 F-150 was the extensive use of aluminum in the truck’s body, trimming as much as 700 pounds from the truck’s weight.
While modern vehicles contain extensive amounts of cast aluminum, use of the lightweight metal for body panels has been limited to high-end sports cars and simple stampings like hoods and trunk lids on some mass-market vehicles. The pickup truck segment is highly competitive when it comes to performance (payload, towing, fuel efficiency) specifications. Ford has thrown everything possible, including tons of money and some pretty exotic technology, at getting every last drop of efficiency out of its engines and drivetrains. One of the few remaining paths for making meaningful performance improvements was to cut down on total vehicle weight.
Underneath, where it really matters, the F-150 still sports a high-strength steel chassis. Durability and longevity won’t be casualties of the truck’s extreme diet. Up above, the use of military-grade aluminum alloys for body panels improves dent and ding resistance while dramatically reducing weight.
To avoid adopting the aluminum technology on faith alone, Ford performed extensive pre-production testing. Six trucks fitted with aluminum-alloy cargo boxes were placed with a mining company, an energy utility, and a construction firm to monitor performance. After two years and more than 300,000 miles of real-world abuse, Ford performed teardowns and inspections of the trucks, using what it learned to ensure the production cargo box would be ready to meet truck owners’ demands.
But light weight is just part of the new F-150 story, so stay tuned for more details.
Photo courtesy of Matt Sepell
, Fuel Economy