2015 Ford F150 Uses Aluminum Body Panels

In an effort to wring more fuel efficiency out of the F150, the 2015 model from Ford will use aluminum body panels on top of a high-strength (yet lighter) steel frame. The move has shaved 700 lbs from the truck’s curb weight, but it has had its detractors along the way, as people still tend to think of aluminum as beer-can material. Ford did their homework, however.

It turns out that Ford has been testing all-aluminum F-series trucks since 2009, running them in torture tests like the Baja 1,000 and not finding any body cracks or defects at the end. The company has also taken 2014 models, fitted them with aluminum, sent them to fleet buyers and tracked the results; even with extreme usage (like dropping an oilfield drill bit into the bed), the aluminum body panels held up as well as or better than steel.

While aluminum is more expensive pound-for-pound than steel, it’s also a third as dense, meaning an aluminum panel can be three times as thick as a steel panel before it will weigh the same as steel. Add in improvements in design and metallurgy, and you have some very robust metal panels. Ford already had extensive experience with aluminum from the time the company owned Aston-Martin and Jaguar; along with improvements in computer-aided design and engineering tools, their design cycle has been cut from eight years to a little over three. 

  • Active grille shutters that close past a certain speed for less aerodynamic drag

  • Retractable running boards

  • A front air dam that extends at highway speed

  • Active wheel shutters that close at highway speed

  • A turbocharged 2.7 liter or 3.6 liter EcoSave V6 as well as a powerful, high-torque V8

  • An auto stop/start feature that cuts idling time

The fuel economy target? Ford isn’t saying…but 30 mpg is within the realm of possibility. Now, think for a moment about a 1980s pickup truck shooting for 30 mpg.