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Ford explores lightweight chassis tech with concept car

Sections: Chassis, Fuel Economy

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Ford Lightweight Vehicle concept press photo

(Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

We’ve talked before about Ford’s decision to build the F-150 pickup truck largely out of aluminum, shaving some 700 lbs from its sizable gerth. On the strength of those results, the Ford Lightweight Concept is exploring just how far they can take this lightweighting idea.

Ford said the Ford Lightweight Concept uses advanced materials to explore future weight reduction strategies. The weight reductions could improve performance and fuel economy and reduce carbon emissions of Ford vehicles, the automaker said. The goal is to develop sustainable technology solutions that are affordable for consumers and can be produced in large volumes across the product lineup.

Ford Global Development Group Vice President Raj Nair said, “Consumers today want better fuel efficiency, but they also want more technology and features in the car, which usually adds weight to the vehicle. 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.”

Ford said going lightweight is a key component of its Blueprint for Sustainability, which is Ford’s effort to work sustainability into its long-range corporate plans. 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 said.

Ford said the Ford Lightweight Concept uses the same lightweight materials commonly found in consumer electronics, including aluminum, chemically toughened glass, and advanced lightweight plastics. The lightweight materials reportedly were incorporated into every aspect of the vehicle’s design, from the chassis itself to engine, battery, and interior features including the seats.

From Ford:

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,” said 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.”

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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