13th July 2017 by Richard Yen
Back in 2015, Ford won the Altair Enlighten Award with its then recently launched, aluminum bodied F-150. The truck represented something of a watershed moment for the modern use of aluminum in mass production vehicles, helping the company to save 500 lbs compared to the outgoing model. In 2016, Ford entered another vehicle in the F-Series family for the award.
The F-Series Super Duty is a more rugged version of the standard F-150 with higher payload and towing capabilities, and uses high-strength steel and high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy for the vehicle’s body as a means to reduce weight. In addition, the Super Duty’s fully boxed frame comprised of more than 95 percent high-strength steel that is up to 24 times stiffer than the previous frame. Customer expectations of quality and performance meant that the new truck line features heavier-duty four-wheel-drive components, driveline, axles and towing hardware, but despite these enhancements to specification and capability, the team at Ford still managed to save 350 lbs from the new model.
In their nomination for the award, Ford emphasized that the lessons learned from light-weighting the F-150 were applied to the Super Duty, with the team treating each vehicle on a case-by-case basis and applying the right material in the right place to improve efficiency and performance.
Ford’s 2016 nomination went further than just demonstrating weight savings though. Since the new F-150 and Super Duty models launched, Ford has made many headlines with its impressive aluminum recycling processes, with the company stating that enough aluminum is recycled every month to build 37,000 new truck bodies! An incredible achievement that demonstrates that although the move to lighter materials from traditional steels brings with it both engineering and cost challenges, innovative new manufacturing processes can support this move and ensure the on-going viability of lightweight, aluminum materials on mass production vehicles.