Recently, we’ve been hearing lots of news about automakers lightweighting larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs. Of course, here at Velde Ford, our favorite example of this phenomenon is the highly-anticipated 2015 F-150 pickup, which will begin production soon in Dearborn, Michigan. It makes sense that these kinds of vehicles would be the first to get the lightweight treatment; after all, the higher gas prices rise, the less practical full-size trucks and SUVs become. However, many people, for work or personal reasons, still require these kinds of vehicles, so Ford has set their engineers loose to find all sorts of new ways to lightweight vehicles to make them more efficient.
But now, Ford has taken the trend to an all-new place with the “Lightweight Concept,” which brings the techniques used in the new F-150—as well as some new ones—to cars like the Ford Fusion. The “Lightweight Concept” is basically a Ford Fusion that shed 700 pounds by replacing almost every single part in the car with lighter alternatives. The end result is amazing—a full-size sedan that weighs only as much as the Fiesta, Ford’s compact offering.
Here’s how Ford was able to perform such a feat. It starts with the frame, which is constructed from aluminum, high-strength steel, and magnesium. This type of frame is both lighter and stronger than a frame made solely from steel. Many parts of the car, like the oil pan and even the wheels, are made of premium carbon fiber materials. Even the windshields get lightweighted, with a mixture of Gorilla Glass and even plastic—the same kind found in cell phones—found in the car’s windows.
“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,” Matt Zaluzec, technical leader for global materials and manufacturing research for Ford, said. “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.”
All these lighter alternative parts allow the Lightweight Concept to employ a smaller engine—a 1.0L three-cylinder EcoBoost, to be precise—and still achieve performance numbers comparable to the typical Fusion. There’s no current plan to bring the Lightweight Concept to production—all those carbon fiber parts cost several pretty pennies—but there’s plenty to be excited about. Ford is even looking for ways to replace lead-acid batteries with a lighter option; one way or another, we’re sure to see amazing things in the future here at Velde Ford as a direct result of the Lightweight Concept.