Aluminum: Built Ford Tough
A few weeks ago, we told you how the auto industry has begun looking at aluminum for use in its manufacturing – specifically, as a lighter replacement for steel.
Tesla may have hit the market first, but Ford is looking at a change that will represent a bit of a culture shift for its customer base – building the bestselling Ford F-150 truck mostly out of aluminum. From the Wall Street Journal:
“The radical redesign will help meet tougher federal fuel-economy targets now starting to have wide-ranging effects on Detroit’s auto makers. But Ford will have to overcome a host of manufacturing obstacles, plus convince die-hard pickup buyers that aluminum is as tough as steel.”
The change to aluminum will trim about 15% of the truck’s weight – 700 or so pounds – to help it achieve better gas mileage. It’s hard to get into the strength debate in simplistic terms, since treatment and other material properties affect just how “tough” aluminum and steel really are. For a good breakdown, check out this article from yacht designer Michael Kasten.
Aluminum is the future of the automotive industry, and its acceptance really comes down to educating the consumer about its strength and safety properties. In summary, Kasten puts it this way:
“As we will see, the issues of strength are tipped somewhat in favor of aluminum, mostly for the reason of its lighter weight. Being much lighter, aluminum will permit a more robust structure within any given weight budget.”