When Ford Motor redesigned the F-150 pickup from lightweight aluminum, many thought the company was crazy to risk messing with the successful formula behind its best-selling vehicle. There were other ways to meet tougher fuel economy standards than using costly aluminum, some competitors argued.
But rather than backing off, Ford is signaling it plans to use even more aluminum in future vehicles, including its new super-duty trucks, which go on sale next year.
The automaker is teaming up with aluminum supplier Alcoa AA +0.00% to develop future high-strength alloys that will be easier to form into complex shapes, giving engineers new freedom to incorporate the lightweight material into their designs.
Ford is the first automaker to use Alcoa’s new proprietary Micromill technology, which produces an aluminum alloy that is 40 percent more formable than today’s automotive aluminum and 30 percent stronger and 30 percent lighter than high-strength steel. It allows Ford to design complex, creased parts from aluminum that were not possible before, such as the inside panels of car doors and external fenders.
“This high-tech aluminum will give Ford a true material edge enabling greater design flexibility and better vehicle performance – making the concept cars of tomorrow a reality,” Alcoa’s Chief Executive Klaus Kleinfled said Monday during a visit to Ford’s research and innovation center in Dearborn, Mich.
The advanced material will be used in a handful parts, like tailgate reinforcements, in the 2016 Ford F-150, available this fall. The company said it expects to double its use of Micromill material between 2016 and 2017.
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