Can aluminum truly be stronger than steel? Not just over the course of a truck’s life cycle, but through all of the immediate dings, dents, and rigor that a pickup truck needs to go through as it works from job to job?

Ford knew that these would be major questions going into the aluminum-based F-150.  Chief Engineer Pete Reyes came loaded with research and answers when it came time to face these types of questions and more…and as it turns out, the biggest problem with aluminum isn’t a material property. It’s perception. From Forbes:

The majority of the truck body is 6,000-series alloy aluminum, which is a heat-treatable alloy aluminum. Depending on the mix that you put in the alloy, but certainly more a function of how long you heat-treat it, you can get all manner of properties out of this aluminum. Some of our structural elements and our extruded pieces are heat-treated, and we end up with stronger pieces than the steel we’re replacing.

… You can just choose to heat-treat it to a strength and replace a steel part that just happened to not be as strong. But you can also just add gauge

[i.e. make it thicker]. Aluminum being a third as dense as steel, you can have three times the thickness before you have the same weight as steel. So in a lot of cases, we tailored it to the strength we needed.

People are asking, “How do you have more dent and ding resistance?” Well, aluminum actually has better properties for dent and ding resistance, but we can also just up-guage it another tenth of a millimeter and still save 40 percent of the weight.

Reyes has plenty more to say regarding the expectations of the truck and the engineering that went into, so be sure to check out the full article.