Ford has introduced a lightweight concept model of its midsize Fusion sedan, which the company says supports its efforts toward achieving better fuel economy on future models. Ford says its Lightweight Concept car uses “advanced materials,” which trim almost 25 percent off the 2013 Fusion's weight, making its weight similar to that of the subcompact Ford Fiesta.
According to Ford, the company's mixed-material research examines incorporating ultra-high-strength steel, carbon fiber, aluminum alloys and other composite materials to reduce the weight of vehicles, potentially resulting in better fuel economy. Ford says in a statement that it hopes to apply its research of lightweight materials across its product line in future high-volume models. "The 2015 F-150 sheds weight through the use of high-strength steel and aluminum, enabling it to tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop shorter – all with improved gas mileage."
Ford says the focus on vehicle “light-weighting” is a main factor and the newest phase of the company's Blueprint for Sustainability, which includes boosting fuel economy and cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions.
"Lighter weight is significant because every 10% weight loss improves fuel economy by 3%-4%," Pete Friedman, Ford manager of manufacturing research, told the Detroit Free Press.
The Los Angeles Times says, although many car manufacturers are looking for new ways to improve fuel economy, few have been as active as Ford. "Indeed, Ford installed its tiny 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine in the Lightweight Concept. The same engine is rated at up to 45 miles per gallon in the much smaller Fiesta hatchback."
The Detroit Free Press also notes that the lighter a car is, the better it can reach higher speeds with a smaller engine.
According to CNET, weight-reducing materials can be applied to nearly every aspect of the car, including lighter carbon fiber seat frames and wheels, as well as polycarbonate to replace heavier rear window glass. "Ford is also working on new battery technology with Samsung for further weight savings. This new combination lithium ion and lead-acid battery weighs 40 percent less than a standard car battery."
Despite the potential advantages of lightweight vehicles, the L.A. Times cautions that Ford is taking a gamble by implementing the technology into the 2015 F-150, which it adds is the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Ford has spent a significant amount of money to develop the all-new truck without knowledge of whether shoppers will approve of the changes, says the L.A. Times.