- Future versions of the Ford Explorer and Expedition SUVs may be candidates for conversion to aluminum, following in the path of the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck, Edmunds has learned.
- A conversion to aluminum will improve fuel economy.
- The higher base price of the SUVs is better able to sustain the higher cost of aluminum use.
Consumers are likely to see an increase in the fuel efficiency of the future Explorer and Expedition if Ford expands aluminum body construction on other larger models.
The higher base price of the SUVs is better able to sustain the higher cost of aluminum use.
The U.S. metals industry is believed to be gearing up to help produce more aluminum Fords starting around 2018.
Ford unveiled the redesigned 2015 F-150 at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show in January.
The truck caused an industry sensation because of its unusual aluminum body panels that cut the truck's weight by 700 pounds compared to the 2014 model. Aluminum, however, is more expensive than the traditional steel body panels, prompting concerns from dealers and customers.
Although the 2015 F-150 is Ford's first mass-production aluminum vehicle, the company has substantial body-construction expertise stretching back to the early 1990s. Early research using experimental aluminum-bodied Ford Taurus sedans led to the debut of Jaguar's aluminum 2003 XJ sedan. Ford owned the British brand at the time.
Apart from the fuel-efficiency gains that stem from lightweight bodywork, there are significant gains for hybrid vehicles as well. Their heavy battery packs can be partly offset by lighter body construction. But there is no word yet on Ford's aluminum plans for its hybrids.
Besides aluminum construction, Ford is looking into engine, transmission and aerodynamic improvements in its vehicles.
Ford must reduce the CO2 emissions of its model range by 4 percent annually if it is to meet global regulations for emissions reductions, said Joe Bakaj, vice president for product development for Ford of Europe.
"CO2 regulations around the world require a yearly gain of 4 percent — that's huge," Bakaj said in a recent interview. "Six or seven years ago, it was less than 1 percent annually. The days of launching a new engine and leaving it in production for 20 years are gone."
Besides improving powertrain efficiency, Bakaj sees potential in "active aerodynamics and reducing tire rolling resistance."
Edmunds says: Consumers should expect aluminum bodywork to appear in some of Ford's higher-end SUVs and crossovers over the next 5-6 years, all in the interests of better gas mileage.