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F150 Goes on Aluminum Diet

This is going to be impressive:

30 mpg highway, which is better than my 4 cylinder Honda CRV does.

They say “close to 30mpg” which is right around the highway mileage of my dad’s 2007 CRV 4WD, the rating for the F150 is with the 2.7 Ecoboost V6 which we will have to see how it actually performs.

Yeah, my CRV gets “close to” 30 mpg highway…but it’s much smaller than an F150 and much less powerful than the Ecoboost V6. It’s got to be a huge investment/gamble for Ford to go to an aluminum body on their top-selling vehicle. I hope it pays off for them.

As a scrapper, I wholeheartedly approve.

But 6000-series? I know about 6061-T6 from bicycling, and I understand its strength/weight ratio isn’t “all that”…simple 4130 steel comes darn close, and some Cr-Mo-Ni steel alloy prolly beats it.

Aviation uses Al mostly because of the Al “skin”…which dictates structural Al as the most practical bulkhead material.

Wonder how much weight they save over “best practices” Fe…not “mild steel” nonsense.

The question that comes to my mind is how will aluminum hold up on trucks which are often subjected to rough use? T-4 or T-6; it’s all soft aluminum and could be subject to stress cracking.

I seem to remember that Ford had a service bulletin some years ago about factory paint flaws on aluminum body panels and Ford’s response about those people out of factory warranty was to look to a local dealer for help…

There’s enough experience from the aircraft industry that I have no doubt the proper alloys properly “worked” and treated can be durable and stand up to pretty much anything steel can. There are DC3 aircraft still in daily use. But I wonder about the price. I doubt if the average pickup truck driver would pay extra for aluminum. I doubt they really care about the weight. If anything, the big-pickup guys that tow would probably prefer the extra weight. Weight is a factor for mileage, but it isn’t as important in pickup trucks as it is in supercars. Maybe with today’s bonding techniques being as good as they are, the price will be comparable.

Only time will tell.

So this means in about 80 years we’ll be seeing a carbon fiber pickup, if we follow a timeline something like airplanes. Give or take 70 years. We’ll see.

I expect that with Ford’s experience bulding aluminum bodies for the Jaguar and the Ford GT, they’ve got the technical know-how to make an aluminum bodied F150 a success. And I think with the combination of the 2.7 Ecoboost V6 getting 30 mpg, people will be willing to spend an extra few hundred bucks for almost a 10% gain in fuel economy. The payback period on that isn’t very long. To boot, the lighter body will make a V6 feel peppier.

I believe it will be a success.

Ford makes so much on an F150 that they can afford to cut the profits a little to defray the cost of aluminum, although they may not have to. And automotive steel is sophisticated these days, especially the body panels. The aluminum might not cost a lot more. Also, IIRC, Ford overestimated the mileage in the EcoBoost engines. They may have done it again.

Most pickups around here see heavy use on the farm, oil field, and pipelines. I wonder how an aluminum bed is going to hold up under 300 pound electric motors, 5 foot pipe wrenches, and so on being tossed into them?

On another note, the Comet airliners of the 50s went down in pieces due to stress cracks and a fair number of other aircraft have suffered problems of the same nature.

Just an anecdote that is slightly amusing and only because it ended well. Not many years ago at the airport near me one single engine plane landed on top of another while on approach. My memory is fuzzy but I think it was a Mooney and a Bonanza. One poked a landing gear right through the aluminum top of the cabin and one can imagine the pilot’s horror at seeing a wheel in the right hand seat after a bang.
Luckily, the planes separated and both made it down without killing the pilots.

It’s normally slow at the airport and I guess the air traffic controller (who lived a couple of blocks away from me) was dozing a bit also. Whenever a farmer was burning off a field or lightning set off an oil storage tank fire and a towering black smoke plume was spotted, the running joke was that our local ATC guy must be on the job again…

Ford may have initially overestimated mpg of the Ecoboost, but the V6 Ecoboost is, I think, a popular engine choice in the current F150. The new V6 Ecoboost will be smaller, yes, but the truck will also be lighter.

Mark, almost all airplanes are still made of aluminum. It is possible that new manufacturing technologies will bring carbon fiber down to where it’s feisable for large airplanes, but we’re not there yet. The cost of manufacturing carbon fiber panels has already come way down these past years due to new preimpregnated panel processes, so who knows.

I’d worry about two things… having a little weight behind the truck helps when towing so you’re controlling the trailer and not it controlling you. And Aluminum is rather brittle compared to steel–so with the pounding that a work truck takes and the inevitable dings and dents over time, will you find it cracking apart instead of just ugly?

On the plus side, you won’t be seeing them rust out any time soon…

“Aluminum” in today’s world covers a wide range of alloys all of which can be “tempered” (heat treated) to achieve desired hardness and mallibility. And they’ve been making airplanes with aluminum for generations. It’s certainly a well established material for structural and for body panel use. I seriously doubt of brittleness or pitting (aluminum’s version of rust) will be a problem. I only wonder about the cost, and about whether contractors will be receptive to the idea. Perhaps if they started with a little mini-pickup, like Toyota used to make, it’d be a good way to establish it in the market.

I have an old 10 speed bicycle, high carbon steel frame, I had it custom built in 78. 24 lbs or so. I was at a local bike shop looking at new, and the shop owner had nothing good to say about aluminum bicycles, stress fatigue etc. and said he has seen a number of them with cracks, and called them basically a disposable bike. It will be interesting to see how the truck holds up.

After pricing out com parables I decided to keep on riding my old bike.

I am highly suspicious of Ford’s claims for mileage. It seems in an article in our daily newspaper, there were complains lodged by Ford owners whose cars did not get the EPA mileage ratings and those advertised by Ford. The EPA mileage tests as the EPA does not test everyone, was submitted by Ford to the EPA. They used the mileage of another vehicle, that just happened to be smaller but had the same motor. Here is a similar article of other complaints.

Son of a gun. I’m sure it’s done by a lot of manufacturers but before I will believe it, I will have to see the same figures quoted by a series of legitimate tests and back up by owners. Otherwise, aluminum that has been engineered correctly is just as good, if to better then steel. Not to worry, unless you worry about their engineers.

Besides, I doubt that aluminum was used so much for rust prevention as for weight savings. Even steel can be better managed to rust less. I gurantee that one of the biggest allies to the auto motive industry, RUST , will not be abandon by Ford.

Barky, I respectfully disagree with the bike shop guy. Aluminum is perfectly good as long as it’s a decent frame. In all my years of riding, I’ve never seen an aluminum frame fail unless it was badly abused.

Bike frames come in chromoly (lugged/brazed and welded), hi-tesile steel (really cheap frames), aluminum (butted and unbutted and in different tempers), carbon fiber, and titanium. MountainCycle used to make stamped aluminum frames frames, but I don’t think they exist anymore.

The difference is in the rides.
Chromoly absorbs vibration better than aluminum and carbon fiber. They’re great road frames.
Aluminum tends to be stiffer. I prefer aluminum, and built my last mountain bike out of it.
Hi-Tense…heavy and wobbly. Dirt cheap, but only used for kids dime-store bikes.
Carbon fiber is stiff, but used primarily on fully suspended bikes.
Titanium rides like a Rolls Royce. I swapped with another club member once who had the same size frame as I do, and I didn’t like it because it lacked feel.

What used to break were the components. We went through a whole “lighter is better” phase in the '80s, and there was tons of junk on the market.

My son competes with a team out of southern California, and he rides an aluminum frame too. Like me, he likes the feedback. For his road bikes he rides lugged chromoly. His frames are custom made and cost a few grand apiece.

It’s pretty much like @samemountainbike says. Products “made from Aluminum” are more correctly made from aluminum alloys in which aluminum is the predominant metal but there are others as well. The properties can vary dramatically depending upon their use and the proportion of the other elements added. The quality can also vary. So, you can have a crappy anything made from one aluminum alloy just like you can have a crappy something made from stainless steel which is one type of steel which is an alloy. That includes different bike frames too. We know some aluminum alloys and other metals can be very long lasting and fairly rust free. . Look at the B-52 bombers and the ending of “planet of the apes”.

Sure, other than military aircraft most current aircraft are aluminum, but the transition to carbon fiber is underway and I don’t expect we’ll get any newly designed aluminum passenger jets (maybe the smaller ones). The fuel savings are too compelling. Cars don’t need to be kept in the air so weight isn’t that much of an issue, but carbon fiber prices are falling steadily and there is no good reason that can’t continue.

Aluminum fabrication techniques have advanced far enough for Ford to do this with a volume model. That always seemed to be the problem, not the cost of the aluminum itself. And there is the problem of repairs, but that may not matter with cars that are designed to crumple and already get totaled after low speed crashes. Aluminum eliminates rust as a problem, and that seemed to be more of a problem for trucks than cars these days. A lot of work trucks get used hard but don’t put on many miles. I think aluminum will be great for that. Twenty years on the farm and no rust. What’s not to like?

TSMB - I think the new 787 will have a pretty large amount of carbon fiber, and it’s also used on some Airbus tail surfaces.

As for aluminum in a truck, I imagine it’ll be strong enough. I worry about the inevitable repairs - not many shops are good at repairing aluminum bodywork, and I imagine it’ll cost big $$$$.