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October 2020 Newsletter

How Ford Made Its Most Efficient Pickup Truck Ever

The founder of Lotus Cars, famously laid out his company’s overriding philosophy as “Simplify, then add lightness.” There’s a pretty sizable gap between the design of a Lotus and the F-150, but when Ford got to work on the latest iteration of its market-dominating pickup, it embraced that credo. The second half of it, at least.

Reducing weight in a car improves almost everything, including handling, acceleration, braking, fuel efficiency, and towing capacity. Since the F-150 is one of the best-selling vehicles in the world, any tiny improvement gets magnified exponentially over the lifetime of the truck. For the 2015 version of the truck, Ford considered cutting weight such a high priority, it did a top-to-bottom rework of nearly all the truck’s components. The most significant change was making the body from aluminum instead of heavier steel, a bet that the weight savings would make up for the price of the more expensive material. (The F-150 starts at around $25,000 and can run twice that with all option boxes ticked.) But it’s not just the outer panels that were reworked in the name of lightness.

“We touched almost every part on the vehicle,” says Jim Mocio, vehicle engineering manager on the F-150. “We were looking for every opportunity to get weight out.” Every little bit—every pound you shave off an exterior mirror or the climate control system—means an improvement in towing capacity or fuel economy. That meant thinking about every component that goes into the car, not just the big things. Even on a truck that weighs in at more than 4,000 pounds, the chance to cut a pound or two from any component was taken. Like with the body panels, the most common move was changing materials, swapping aluminum for steel. The company saved 16.3 pounds in the steering knuckles by switching to aluminum. It cut 41 pounds from the driveline and as much as 18 pounds from all the seats.

Source: wired.com


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