Friday, 07 February 2014 13:38

Ford’s Best Selling F-150 Gets Lighter and Tougher

In what many industry analysts consider a risky move for Ford, and others consider a transformative moment, the company is rolling the dice on the pickup line, America’s best-selling truck for 37 years and its best-selling vehicle for 32.

The 2015 F-150 will be substantially lighter due to extensive use of aluminum and more high strength steels. Aluminum alloys are used throughout the F-150 body for the first time, as the truck slims down by up to 700 pounds.

The lighter body then allows other components such as fuel tanks, brakes and powertrains to also shrink, all while maintaining or improving driving performance and fuel economy, according to companies involved, including Alcoa and Novelis Inc.

“This is already the most significant debut at the auto show,” said Joe Langley, a production analyst for researcher IHS Automotive. “Especially since Ford will be taking such a big gamble.”

Ford engineers increased the use of high-strength 70,000-psi steel—from 23 percent to 77 percent of the frame—to improve stiffness and durability while reducing weight. The new frame is up to 60 pounds lighter than the current frame.
“The frame is the backbone of the truck, and we delivered a frame that is stronger and more capable than before,” said John Caris, F-150 lead frame engineer. “Our frame team developed exclusive, industry-first engineering techniques to create a truck foundation that is lighter without sacrificing toughness. This F-150 frame is the toughest we have ever built.”

Ford engineers also increased the use of advanced materials in the F-150 body.

“Our objective was to find materials that allowed us to design the truck to be as tough or tougher than the current model, yet could help it be hundreds of pounds lighter for better capability and fuel economy,” said Pete Friedman of Ford manufacturing research. “Out of all the materials we tested, we carefully selected only certain grades of aluminum that met our high performance standards in all of our tests, while allowing us to trim hundreds of pounds from the truck.”

The reduced weight of the high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys enables the F-150 to tow and haul more than ever while also improving acceleration, braking and handling performance. Also, aluminum alloys will not rust and are resistant to corrosion, helping enhance vehicle life.