Truck manufacturers along with government regulators are pushing equipment suppliers toward efficient, lightweight designs. Steel is losing traction in every market segment—from pickup trucks and automobiles, to truck equipment and van bodies. There are no exceptions.
Besides Walsh Construction, Ford also gave Barrick Gold Corp. of Elko, Nev., prototype F-150 pickups featuring high-strength aluminum cargo beds to test. One of the test vehicles is shown here. (Photo credit: Ford)
Written by Matthew de Paula, Forbes Contributor
No matter how many different ways the Ford research group in charge of rethinking the F-150 pickup looked at improving its fuel economy, it was always the same answer that popped up.
“If you can use technology and materials to take weight out of the vehicle, you’ll always end up with the best solution,” says Pete Reyes, chief engineer for the 2015 Ford F-150.
The main goal in developing the new full-size pickup, which goes on sale later this year and has sparked controversy over its weight-saving aluminum body, was to increase efficiency without compromising capability. Alternative powertrains were considered, so was downsizing. But always it came back to the weight, Reyes says—the less of it, the better.
The solution that the team came up with was revolutionary as pickups go: Use an aluminum body instead of a steel one to cut 700 pounds from the F-150 in one fell swoop. But the change had its detractors, both inside and outside of the company, Reyes says. To some, aluminum was nothing more than the stuff of soda cans; it could not possibly stand up to the severe abuse pickup trucks must endure.
F3 MFG, manufacturer of DuraMag Bodies and Magnum Headache Racks in Waterville, Maine, recently ranked in the top 1300 of the country's 5000 fastest growing companies.
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