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.
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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.
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.