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Ford's move to aluminum in top selling vehicle puts pressure on competitors to find their own aluminum supply

Ford has made a serious move to reduce the weight of its incredibly popular F-150 truck through the use of aluminum. The 2015 F-150 uses so much aluminum that it has shed 700 pounds, and 95% of its body is now made from the lightweight material.
 
Not only does lighter weight mean better fuel economy, but it will also mean better performance and greater towing capacity as well.
 
“There’s a very simple reason for it [weight reduction]: CAFE,” said General Motors Co. spokesman Klaus-Peter Martin, referring to the U.S. government’s tough new fuel economy standards. “Every gram you can take out of the vehicle, it helps with fuel efficiency.”


2015 Ford F-150
 
With Ford making such a huge move with its top selling F-150, its competitors are now left rushing to sign their own agreements with aluminum suppliers. Since the F-Series trucks sell in such huge numbers, Ford’s appetite for aluminum in the industry will be unmatched (and it has already locked up much of the automotive-grade aluminum sheets available on the market for the F-150).
 
Tom Boney, head of North American automotive business for Novelis Inc., also noted that every automaker was forced to look at Ford's plans for the new F-150 and adjust their plans accordingly.
 
Aluminum maker Alcoa is also boosting production with new plants in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to prepare for the increased adoption of aluminum in the automotive world.
 
Competitors are going to be significantly behind Ford in moving their [volume] trucks and cars to aluminum. They will not only have to redesign their vehicles but will also need to secure an adequate supply of aluminum and invest in retooling factories to make the body panels from the aluminum sheets. 

Source: Detroit News



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Hmmm
By spamreader1 on 2/12/2014 10:00:25 AM , Rating: 2
Wonder if this is an indicator to buy stocks in Aluminum producing companies? This may be the way of the future for all automobiles.




RE: Hmmm
By Iketh on 2/12/2014 10:14:24 AM , Rating: 2
Yea and junked cars made of aluminum won't exactly be junk anymore...


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 11:56:02 AM , Rating: 2
Cars made out of steel aren't junk either. Their rusted out hulks won't be worth as much as aluminum framed cars, but they've been economically recycled for decades.

The advantage with aluminum is that cars won't "rust" nearly as fast. All the ferrous bolts and subframes will turn to dust, but the frame should last decades even on the worst salted roads.


RE: Hmmm
By TerranMagistrate on 2/12/2014 2:06:25 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. For those of us that like to hold onto our vehicles until the wheels fall off so-to-speak, this is a huge boon with improved fuel economy being a nice little perk on the side. The amount of salt they dump on the roads here in Northeast Ohio is ridiculous and the rust is difficult and cost to stop once it starts.


RE: Hmmm
By Solandri on 2/12/2014 5:45:12 PM , Rating: 3
If you're hoping aluminum body panels will withstand road salt better, I wouldn't hold my breath. When dry, aluminum forms a protective layer of aluminum oxide which protects the aluminum from further corrosion. When wet, the aluminum oxide which forms doesn't bond with the aluminum - it simply floats off into the water. Aluminum boat parts still need sacrificial zinc anodes just like steel and brass. Paint is still your best protection.


RE: Hmmm
By TerranMagistrate on 2/13/2014 12:46:51 PM , Rating: 2
Well then, I am disappoint.


RE: Hmmm
By ppardee on 2/13/2014 2:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
Soo... You're saying that we can soon have anodized aluminum car frames? I want mine in purple, thank you very much!


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/13/2014 4:10:51 PM , Rating: 3
Honda Insights have been on the road for more than a decade and they've stood up to road salt better than conventional vehicles.

Aluminum stills corrodes like steel, but it is much less susceptible. Thousands of aluminum aircraft are still flying 70+ years after being built. The skins are covered in high purity aluminum in a process known as Alclad, forming a strong oxide layer. How many unpainted 70+ year old steel cars are still structurally sound?

Primering will certainly help, but I think you're selling aluminum a little short. Cars generally don't swim in the ocean. :)


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:07:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, and Ford is not the first there is already a track record for aluminum cars. The unbelievable bad assed mazda rx7(largely because of aluminum) the jag, and the range rover. The fact is using lighter materials produces superior cars.


RE: Hmmm
By fishman on 2/13/2014 6:20:44 PM , Rating: 2
Plenty of large yachts that are sailed on the oceans are made of aluminum and the topsides are left unpainted.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:03:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
When wet, the aluminum oxide which forms doesn't bond with the aluminum


Most scuba tanks are aluminum and painting them isn't even necessary. You can't find a more harsh environment then that.


RE: Hmmm
By Manch on 2/12/2014 4:48:36 PM , Rating: 3
The frame on the F150 is still steel. Cant change that as aluminum cant handle the required load and stress. The body is what is mostly aluminum.

Even on the worst salted roads, those steel frames still last decades.Body panels, yeah they can have a relatively short life but even they still last years longer than they used to. Galvanization of steel has mostly taken care o this problem and its very cheap to do so. Granted if the galvanic coating(zinc)gets chipped just like if your paint gets chipped down to the metal then yeah rust can form. The only frames I ever see that get truly rusted out relatively fast nowadays are the ones that people dip into the ocean backing in trailers or cars that were in flood zones with either ocean or brackish water. This is because when the car/truck gets submerged in the salt water, it seeps into the gaps and holes in the frame/unibody and not all of it drains out. The interior of the frame or the parts of the unibody that were not galvanized are unprotected and will react immediately with the salt water bath its just taken.

That is one of the reasons why i would tell people when i lived in VA that i there car was out in that storm and it was exposed to water any higher than the bottom of the rim to claim it on their insurance an take plenty of pic. If your underside took a bath, then within a year you would have serious issues.

Some automakers are now using a galvanizing bath to dip the entire frame/unibody to ensure the entire car is coated to protect it from rust.

The reason why aluminum doesnt rust as fast is because aluminumoxide molecules are about the same size as aluminum, where as ironoxide is much bigger. When ironoxide forms in a crevice or crack it can often make it bigger allowing more water to seep inside nd the process begins anew, Thats why you see rusted steel take on a flaky apearance when the rust becomes severe where as aluminum just looks like its dirty.


RE: Hmmm
By JediJeb on 2/12/2014 5:08:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The reason why aluminum doesnt rust as fast is because aluminumoxide molecules are about the same size as aluminum, where as ironoxide is much bigger. When ironoxide forms in a crevice or crack it can often make it bigger allowing more water to seep inside nd the process begins anew, Thats why you see rusted steel take on a flaky apearance when the rust becomes severe where as aluminum just looks like its dirty.


Actually Aluminum oxide forms quite quickly over the surface of an aluminum sheet, but unlike Iron oxide it is chemically bonded to the aluminum below it. Aluminum oxide is also what most gemstones are made of. Emerald, Ruby, and many others, so aluminum oxide is a very hard material which resists attacks by other chemicals. Aluminum just like iron can be chemically attacked by salts and that is what leads to corrosion of the aluminum panels. There are also electrochemical attacks on aluminum which are caused when other metals are directly attached to aluminum so you can't just attach aluminum to iron with an iron rivet.

quote:
The frame on the F150 is still steel. Cant change that as aluminum cant handle the required load and stress. The body is what is mostly aluminum.


Aluminum can be used for frames, it just has to be designed correctly. Many of the large flat bed semi trailers have aluminum frames that carry a lot of weight.


RE: Hmmm
By Manch on 2/12/2014 6:29:50 PM , Rating: 2
Dude, I was explaining why steel is more susceptible. Does rust thru work for you? Aluminum corrosion takes on a more pock mark like features as it gets worse. It also takes a good bit longer to completely corrode thru vs steel.

In regards to the SEMI trailers, are you actually referring to the trailers or the RIG?

Trailers, sure aluminum frame is fine. In the actual truck frame? No!


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 7:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Trailers, sure aluminum frame is fine. In the actual truck frame? No!


Many semi-trucks use aluminum frame rails. It's an option on the Freightliner Cascadia, which is the Toyota Corolla of over-the-road trucking.

Many cars have been designed with aluminum unibody frames, such as the original Honda Insight


RE: Hmmm
By Manch on 2/13/2014 5:49:00 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, OK Frame rails, not the same as an entire frame. Big difference. Problem with Aluminum Frame Rails is corrosion between the rails and everything steel that mounts to it.

No, not many cars use aluminum unibody frames. The ones that do are highend or limited production. That is why the F150 moving to an aluminum body is such big news.


RE: Hmmm
By JDHammer on 2/13/2014 1:40:14 PM , Rating: 2
While we're at it, lets try titanium frame... ;-)


RE: Hmmm
By Manch on 2/14/2014 2:21:17 PM , Rating: 2
lol, I wonder if Uncle SAm would subsidize it so the rich can buy them


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I want that.


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/13/2014 4:14:56 PM , Rating: 2
In a ladder frame, the rails pretty much are the frame.

Aircraft and boats have used steel and aluminum together for close to a century. Galvanic corrosion is well understood and easy to mitigate.

My point was that cars have been designed with aluminum unibody frames for awhile now. It has never been a problem structurally.


RE: Hmmm
By Manch on 2/14/2014 3:01:37 PM , Rating: 2
Alright man, you're splitting hairs here. A Semi, aircraft and boats are way different than a f150 frame, or a car.

A few points here:

In Aircraft, weight is paramount, and therefore aluminum is ideal. Yeah they use steel/titanium where it needs to be and yeah corrosion control is a very tried and true practice. They also see a much much higher maintenance schedule than a consumer truck.

BOats? Again, different animal in how the frame/hull is built and how it endures stress. None of the boats I have are aluminum/steel framed. That would be just silly in salt water and damn near impossible to maintain. If you're talking much larger vessels, then sure, but again with the maintenance schedules.

Semi's with Aluminum rails have their advantages/disadvantages. The weight savings are pretty good and they're great for use in drier climates, short to mid length trips. The max load is or there is another compromise made when going with aluminum frames. Corrosion is a problem regardless and while they have many ways of combating this mounting steel axles, suspension, etc to aluminum rails accelerates the damage in in wetter climates. When you start getting cracks, you have tocut out and marry another piece of frame or replace vs a relatively simple repair with steel.

A car doesnt carry the load a truck does. The EV you pointed out used aluminum to counter the weight of the batteries, the corvette (Certain models)uses it but what weight other than the hooker and your golf clubs are you putting in that thing? No car using an all aluminum frame is a high production car. As I said before they're all highend and unibody. Again different animal than an F150 frame.

No rails themselves dont make a frame. I realize you have a hard on for aluminum and anybody that says no to an aluminum framed F150 or any 1/2 ton truck must be a hater but the simple fact is it would not be ideal. It would compromise the trucks capabilities, shorten the longevity of the truck, and significantly raise cost of purchase, and maintenance.

I think its great they shaved 700lbs off the truck. The panels are on avg 3 times thicker than the steel body t replaces to maintain the same strength. It's harder to dent but also harder to repair. FORd is spending $$$ to get shops certified to repair them. I do wonder how they are gonna control corrosion issues around the mounts between the steel frame and the body in the long term. They are treated and all that but those are always places where moisture like to collect. moisture plus disparate metals equals corrosion so I wonder how they deal with that. Unlike motor mounts, the rest of the body isnt exposed to the engine heat which dries them out and helps inhibit corrosion in those areas.

I have aluminum parts on my car. The hood is, while the rest of the body is steel. Other bits on the car are as well. If i upgrade a part and its aluminum or whatever, I am always sure to apply antiseize, or another barrier to keep corrosion at bay.

You can point to hand gliders next and I still wont agree that an F150 should have an alumnium frame. If it ever does, Ill buy used.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
I completely disagree, the reason cars and light trucks are built out of steel is STRICTLY cost. When you want high performance you go with aluminum, carbon fiber, titanium, magnesium, etc.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:16:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Semi's with Aluminum rails have their advantages/disadvantages. The weight savings are pretty good


Weight savings in trucking translates directly to $$$$$$. More freight for the same gas or the ability to move more freight because you are restricted to overall weight.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:10:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Freightliner Cascadia, which is the Toyota Corolla of over-the-road trucking.


The toyota Coralla and the Cadillac of trucking, they are fantastic trucks all the way through.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:01:39 PM , Rating: 2
Aren't you guys missing something? The aluminum used for aircraft and I'm sure Ford is not pure aluminum its an alloy. The alloy you use determines how prone it is to corrosion just like stainless steal isn't prone to rust.


RE: Hmmm
By SilthDraeth on 2/12/2014 9:57:47 PM , Rating: 2
Except they aren't making the frames out of Aluminum.

Further more Aluminum is more prone to stress fracturing over time than steel.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:18:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, 737 are developing cracks after only decades of 24/7 use.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:19:37 PM , Rating: 2
737's


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 4:57:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
All the ferrous bolts and subframes will turn to dust


Yup we need aluminum and composite bodies with titanium hardware.


RE: Hmmm
By sprockkets on 2/12/2014 10:16:34 AM , Rating: 2
What sucks is copper prices are already high, but it is a poor material for a/c coils. Most are going back to AL.

Expect the price to go way up. People's jaw drop when I tell them a new coil for their a/c is $1500, more than the whole furnace itself.


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 11:51:58 AM , Rating: 5
Why did you bring up copper? Copper is expensive because its getting tougher to find and dig the stuff out of the ground.

Aluminum is expensive because its manufacture is energy intensive. Aluminum ore (bauxite) is plentiful. Most aluminum foundries are built next to power plants to supply their induction furnaces. Before the Hall-Heroult process was invented, aluminum smelting required so much energy that it was considered a precious metal. Capping the Washington Monument with aluminum in 1884 was a big deal. Now the idea is quaint.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 4:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, but almost all aluminum is recycled so it mitigates it a bit.


RE: Hmmm
By Flunk on 2/12/2014 10:30:41 AM , Rating: 2
It's possible, but there is also carbon fibre and possibly fibreglass.


RE: Hmmm
By DFranch on 2/12/2014 10:46:56 AM , Rating: 2
That will work for the body panels, but not the frame. Unless the frame is still made of steel?


RE: Hmmm
By Rukkian on 2/12/2014 10:58:08 AM , Rating: 2
At this point, the F-150 will use high strength steel in the frame. Aluminum is not really a good material for the frame.

Not saying that won't change in the future, but at least for trucks, I don't think we will see it any time soon.

As for the other materials, you may see some of that, but most formulations of carbon fiber, while good for weight reduction, don't do well in crash tests, as they tend to shatter instead of absorb all of the energy. Once you add in that it is expensive to make at this point, it will probably be awhile before we see many mass productions vehicles using carbon fiber en masse imo.


RE: Hmmm
By gookpwr on 2/12/2014 11:28:35 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah I wouldn't go all crazy thinking our pop/beer cans are going to have a higher deposit rate all of a sudden in EVERY state trying to scrounge as much aluminum back into the supply chain as possible.

Many other manufacturers could use hydro-form extruded aluminum for the frames and make the body panels out of dent resistant recyclable plastic like Saturn did.

That combination is probably more economical, better weight saving, and just as environmentally friendly if not more so.


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 11:41:12 AM , Rating: 2
High strength steel will still heavily be used. Most cars of the near-term future will likely be a composite of materials.

I think VW is being the most innovative/practical in developing new technology. The Lupo 3L is a great example of optimizing conventional construction methods. The conventional steel unibody was selectively strengthened with high strength steel while non-structural panels and some parts were made in aluminum and magnesium. The Up Lite! concept car will be the "three box sedan" of the future. It's built like the Lupo, but with greater use of high strength steel and carbon fiber composites.

Cars will get more advanced, but they'll also get more expensive. An increasingly lower percentage of the population in Western societies will drive as time goes on. It's called "progress."


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:26:08 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, cars are already a composite of materials. Nobody uses steel engine blocks or transmission housings anymore. Many cars use also use aluminum in suspension parts because dropping unsprung weight is key to ride quality. Aluminum wheels are pretty much standard on most models of cars and the interior is all light weight plastic. What they really need is a scratch resistant material to replace glass.


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 11:30:28 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the F150 was probably chosen as the testbed because it is body-on-frame.

Aluminum works fine as a structural material, but it is difficult to fasten without destroying its strength. Lotus builds aluminum unibody frames by gluing extruded members together. Honda built its NSX and Insight using a structural monocoque frame composed of extruded aluminum members joined at cast aluminum interconnects. The non-structural body panels (fenders, door skins, rear quarter panel, etc.) were then attached through welding, which significantly reduces the yield strength.

Aluminum is also more expensive, more difficult to stamp and hard to streamline into conventional manufacturing lines. Carbon fiber composites won't become commonplace until better mass-production techniques become available. The current pre-preg / autoclave method its too labor intensive.


RE: Hmmm
By ianweck on 2/12/2014 12:09:27 PM , Rating: 2
You sound like you know what you're talking about. What business are you in?


RE: Hmmm
By Spuke on 2/12/2014 1:01:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The current pre-preg / autoclave method its too labor intensive.
Isn't BMW using a different process for it's CF EV's?


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 2:49:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the industry has been moving to resin transfer molding (RTM). A few high performance cars use carbon fiber in the roof panels (e.g. BMW M6, Chevy Z06) and manufacturers are replacing more panels/parts as they gain confidence.

Outside of super cars, the only production vehicle I know of to use significant amounts of carbon fiber in the frame is the VW XL1. It's really just an expensive technology demonstrator for energy efficiency. That is, a different type of super car...


RE: Hmmm
By Spuke on 2/12/2014 5:14:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yeah, the industry has been moving to resin transfer molding (RTM).
Thanks for the reply.


RE: Hmmm
By aliasfox on 2/12/2014 12:05:23 PM , Rating: 2
A lot of what you said about carbon fiber can be applied to aluminum as well. Light and strong, but doesn't hold up well to impacts and difficult (if not impossible) to repair.

Steel has very good fatigue characteristics - it can be flexed back and forth without losing much of its strength, which is good for frames, springs, collision damage, etc. Aluminum weakens significantly after it's been deformed, which means one probably doesn't want to ride in a pre-crashed aluminum chassis car.

For the forseeable future, I see aluminum and CF mostly as body pieces. I hope to see passenger compartments out of CF in the near future though. While CF shatters on impact, it takes a lot more to shatter it than it would to compress steel, thus making it safer for the passenger cage - everything else can deform right up until the passenger compartment, but that needs to stay intact.


RE: Hmmm
By FITCamaro on 2/12/2014 1:13:06 PM , Rating: 2
We'll get to enjoy higher insurance premiums as a result.


RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 3:01:55 PM , Rating: 2
Good comment, but I wouldn't want to ride in a pre-crashed anything...


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:35:40 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't the Mclarin use a carbon front end to absorb the impact of collisions? They had a block that crumbled as it hit something absorbing the impact if I remember correctly.


RE: Hmmm
By BillyBatson on 2/12/2014 12:27:07 PM , Rating: 2
it might actually be even better to invest in companies that recycle aluminum?


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 4:55:31 PM , Rating: 2
I love how Ford's competitors bash the use of aluminum in a pickup while at the same time rush to do the same. Personally I love the composite bed in my Tacoma, definitely the way to go.


RE: Hmmm
By Jeffk464 on 2/15/2014 5:39:12 PM , Rating: 2
By the way I'm a little tempted to buy one of these new V6 F150's to replace my Tacoma, and I cant say that about any other truck.


Corrosion issue.
By KDOG on 2/16/2014 1:52:37 PM , Rating: 2
As far as the corrosion issue is concerned, I remember when I was building a kit aircraft a while back we had these thin Mylar(?) sheets that we would put between any steel and aluminum. ALSO there is "AN" hardware that is basically cadmium coated to prevent that reaction. Ford could be incorporating either or both of these practices.




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