Ford introduces lightweight concept car

Ford's Lightweight Concept vehicle uses a mix of high-strength steel, aluminum, composites and other advanced materials to demonstrate the company's lightweighting capabilities.

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Ford Motor Co. (Detroit, Mich., USA) on June 3 unveiled its Lightweight Concept vehicle, which uses advanced materials to explore future weight-reduction solutions that could improve performance and fuel efficiency while reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The vehicle represents the latest phase of Ford’s research into developing sustainable technology solutions that are affordable for consumers and can be produced in large volumes across the product lineup. This research has also led to dramatic weight reductions of up to 700 lb/318 kg in the all-new F-150. The 2015 F-150 sheds weight through the use of high-strength steel and aluminum, enabling it to tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop shorter – all with improved gas mileage.

“Consumers today want better fuel efficiency, but they also want more technology and features in the car, which usually adds weight to the vehicle,” says Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “A focus on light-weighting will be fundamental to our industry for years to come, and we are investigating many advanced materials applications as possible solutions for weight reduction in our vehicles.”

Light-weighting is a key component in Ford’s Blueprint for Sustainability, which integrates sustainability into the business plan for the long-term preservation and enhancement of environmental, social and financial capital. The introduction and incorporation of lightweight materials into vehicle construction helps meet the goal of reducing weight to achieve better fuel economy for consumers while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Ford’s research into improved efficiency through weight reduction with advanced materials including new metals, alloys and composites began more than 25 years ago. This research produced the breakthrough Aluminum Intensive Vehicle program in 1992 and all-aluminum high-performance Ford GT in 2005.

Along with other fuel-efficiency technologies, Ford says light-weighting is fundamental to its efforts to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million – the level many scientists, businesses and governmental agencies believe may avoid the most serious effects of climate change.

Ford’s Lightweight Concept uses many of the same advanced materials found in today’s lightweight electronic devices, including aluminum, chemically toughened glass and advanced lightweight plastics.

Ford says its engineers took a holistic approach to weight reduction by incorporating advanced materials into the entire design of the vehicle, including powertrain, chassis, body, battery and interior features such as seats. This Lightweight Concept vehicle represents its most comprehensive blend of advanced materials yet in one vehicle, including strategic application of aluminum, ultra-high-strength steels, magnesium and carbon fiber.

The research vehicle was developed with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Program, together with Cosma International – a subsidiary of Magna International – to illustrate long-term potential light- weighting solutions. Magna’s design and development of the multi-material body-in-white, closures and chassis components are a significant contribution in light-weighting the concept vehicle.

“Our goal was to investigate how to design and build a mixed-materials, lightweight vehicle that could potentially be produced in high volume, while providing the same level of safety, durability and toughness as our vehicles on the road today,” says Matt Zaluzec, Ford technical leader, Global Materials and Manufacturing Research. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to light-weighting. The Lightweight Concept gives us the platform to continue to explore the right mix of materials and applications for future vehicles.”

Ford notes that other industries have incorporated lighter-weight advanced materials to achieve greater fuel economy, speed and performance. Aviation and aerospace industries – commercial and military – make extensive use of composites structures and mixed materials, including aluminum and carbon fiber, to reduce weight and maximize fuel efficiency. The rail industry makes extensive use of lightweight materials to reduce weight in high-speed and bullet trains. The heavy truck transportation industry uses lightweight materials including aluminum and high-strength steel to improve fuel efficiency.

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