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Ford showcases weight-saving materials in new Lightweight Concept vehicle

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June 5, 2014

Ford's Lightweight Concept vehicle based on the Fusion weighs less than a Fiesta

Ford's Lightweight Concept vehicle based on the Fusion weighs less than a Fiesta

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At NAIAS in January, Ford showed the world its new lightweight F-150 truck, which slashed 700 lb (318 kg) from its predecessor's weight to improve handling and fuel economy. Now the automaker has taken the weight-saving techniques from the F-150 and applied them to a new Lightweight Concept vehicle based on a Ford Fusion sedan.

Although Ford's Lightweight Concept is a full-sized sedan, it is lighter than a Fiesta thanks to the extensive use of aluminum, along with strategically placed carbon fiber and magnesium scattered throughout its construction. Ford says advanced materials are incorporated throughout the entire vehicle's design, from the powertrain, chassis, body and battery, through to interior features, such as the seats.

The vehicle also takes advantage of Ford's 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine, and sits on lightweight wheels wrapped in skinny tires. The net result is a car that weighs just under 25 percent less than a standard Fusion.

The Ford Lightweight Concept uses Ford's 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine

According to Ford's Global Materials and Manufacturing Research Leader, Matt Zaluzec, the goal in designing the car was to "investigate how to design and build a mixed-materials, lightweight vehicle that could potentially be produced in high volume, while providing the same level of safety, durability and toughness as [Ford's] vehicles on the road today."

But don't expect to see a production Fusion which weighs anywhere near as little as the Lightweight Concept any time soon. While it may look production ready, building a car out of lightweight materials is very expensive compared with traditional steel construction. Carbon fiber has long been lauded as a strong, lightweight savior, but cost has largely limited its use to low volume specials and high-end supercars.

There is no doubt that lighter cars are the way of the future. The benefits to drivers and the environment are well documented, but cost is still the limiting factor when it comes to large-scale production. While Ford's concept may not be showroom ready yet, it points to where the company's cars are headed in the quest for lower emissions and greater fuel economy.

Zaluzec introduces the Ford Lightweight Concept vehicle in the following video.

Source: Ford

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10 Comments

Great...Now apply this to your Mustang, or better yet, your SHO taurus and I"ll be the first to buy one.

Its a worrying trend when the average sedan now weighs more than an SUV from a few years ago. Ford is guilty of this, but their cars are somewhat lighter than the competition already. The chevy camaro and Dodge Charger both tip the scales at nearly 4000lbs apiece. Bravo for this.

Michael Wilson
6th June, 2014 @ 04:20 am PDT

No wonder it's expensive! They're still trying to make their old cars out of new materials, instead of redesigning and optimizing the whole manufacturing system.

20 years ago, Rocky Mountain Institute made their Hypercar out of carbon fiber. The material was more expensive than steel, yes – but the finished car was cheaper than a normal car, because the whole factory was designed to take advantage of the material's unique properties.

The Hypercar could be made of fewer parts, so the tooling costs were lower. You didn't need expensive industrial robots to build them, because every part could be lifted by two men and snapped together like Lego blocks. You didn't even need a paint shop, because the material already had color built in.

That car weighed only half of what normal cars weigh. It was safer, more environmentally friendly, more aerodynamic, and a whole lot cheaper.

So what the folks at Ford have done here is not futuristic high tech. Ford hasn't even reached the year 1993 yet! Too bad Gizmag fell for Ford's propaganda.

Mr. T
6th June, 2014 @ 07:15 am PDT

reducing mass without sacrificing rubustness is the most advanced mrchanical ebgineering. I applaud the company for taking on the challenge.

nutcase
6th June, 2014 @ 08:50 am PDT

I think the real challenge is for the manufacturer to reduce mass by switching to materials that make the car age equally fast as today's cars (rust, baby, rust!), to make sure they can sell us a new one after 6 or 8 years. Too bad many advanced materials just don't corrode.

Manufacturers know what's coming: Look at the Tesla S, or the BMW i3, both don't have finicky combustion engines any more, (forget about i3 w/extender), body materials are long lasting like aluminum and carbon fiber, there's not much to maintain other than tires and brakes, batteries are getting cheaper and cheaper and people will definitely *not* throw away a 15 year old i3 just because the battery is dead. I bet whatever you want on that one.

These cars are game-changers. They will be more like airplanes: With good basic care they can last many decades. Buy a Tesla today and - if you really want to - you can drive that thing for 30 years.

These cars are both doing the right thing: Better goods, more durable. But these things will force us to completely re-think our fairy-tale thinking of how we run our economies. *Not* more growth all the time, but less and less things made that last longer, things that use less resources and don't require one-time commodities (aka oil) to be operated.

BeWalt
6th June, 2014 @ 10:45 am PDT

Today's cars puzzle me. They have smaller aluminum engines, aluminum transmissions, plastic interiors, and no real frame. Yet my new front wheel drive Impala weighs more than my old 1955 Chevy which was cast iron, steel. and almost no plastic. Even my 1989 Calais was 800 pounds lighter than a similar sized new car and got as good gas mileage. I know everyone says it's about safety improvements but with seat belts added to the old '55' Chevy it felt just as safe as the new cars. I was even rear ended once by a newer car that totally rolled under it's front end while only scratching my back bumper. No small car should weigh more than 2000 lbs. and no midsize should weigh more than 2500 lbs. even with airbags and 5 mph bumpers. Maybe they should start by going back to cast iron and steel for strength instead of a ton of plastic and aluminum.

Bob
6th June, 2014 @ 02:06 pm PDT

Who the heck doesn't want better cars. But somehow we are too far behind the eight ball to put hopes in improving an old idea. Perhaps we need to face the fact that our populations are now so large that we have to come up with better answers than cars. Maybe electric bicycles with some sort of gyro that keeps the somewhat unable folks from falling over might be a better direction. Every square foot of land occupied by concrete or asphalt is a square foot of nature ruined. Even roof tops are a sign that everything underneath is lost to nature. More roads and more cars are not acceptable or even survivable.

Jim Sadler
6th June, 2014 @ 02:11 pm PDT

Jim S.: No one can predict what is "acceptable" or "survivable". That's why centralized planning, monopolies, and regulations don't work.

Mr. T: You are the only one to mention RMI's innovative Hypercar except for me. The Hypercar technology was employed by a small new auto manufacturer, Aptera. This car was epic disruptive bigger than Tucker. It had thousands of buyers lined up with deposits. It was proven by testing in the X-prize contest. It mysteriously died.

Ford did not "showcase" lightweight materials. It "proved" they are not feasible. Why? Could it be the car manufacturers own the oil companies? No industry could be this incompetent. This has to be intentional.

Don Duncan
7th June, 2014 @ 10:44 am PDT

I would have thought an article all about reducing weight on this vehicle would have actually listed the weight of the car.

Losing X Kgs doesn't mean much if the car was an elephant to start with.

warren52nz
8th June, 2014 @ 03:32 pm PDT

I agree with DonDuncan - Too many very promising solutions have been killed off by Big Money.

As he says, no company should be this incompetent! Literally dozens, if not hundreds. of low mileage, low cost, low consumption revolutionary ideas generally - even proven ones - have been bought, or frightened off and disappeared.

You can go back as far as Tesla, whose ideas for cheaper (even free) power were killed off by big business who foresaw loss of profits and decided to stop any sponsorship or backing funding.

The Skud
9th June, 2014 @ 07:38 pm PDT

@Don Duncan many many industries are incompetent. I've worked for large companies with thousands of employees where alarmingly few people actually knew what they were doing.

@warren52nz about 3500 lbs.

Daishi
9th June, 2014 @ 09:28 pm PDT
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