Ford 2015 F-150: Beyond the Aluminum

Gary S. Vasilash

Considerable care was taken in engineering the best-selling pickup so that weight is minimized and the use of recycled material is maximized, all while assuring the "Built Ford Tough" requirement.

Everybody knows that the 2015 Ford F-150 light-duty pickup is an aluminum-intensive vehicle. The aluminum is used, along with considerably more high-strength steel in the truck’s frame (from 23% in the current generation to 77% in the 2015), in order to make the vehicle lighter. According to  Ford engineers, the vehicle is approximately 700 lb. lighter thanks to the use, in large part, of the materials (they attribute 60 lb.  of the weight save to the steel in  the frame; presumably the alumi- num box and body panels account for the majority of the save).

The rationale for reducing the weight of the pickup is predicated, in part, on the need to improve fuel efficiency. Simply stated, the less mass there is to move, the less  energy is needed to move it. What’s  more, there is what is called a “virtuous cycle” that gets set up when designing and engineering something like this. That is, because the vehicle is lighter, there  is a fairly straight-forward concomi- tant reduction in the size and weight of other things, ranging from the engine to the brakes.

But while Ford is working toward an energy-save with the aluminum and high-strength steel, there are other things that it is doing from an energy-saving and “greener” material utilization.

For example, it will be the first  light truck to offer LED headlamps. Compared to halogen headlamps, the LEDs use 63% less energy. And  the lens for the lamp was carefully  engineered not only for illumina- tion, but for strength. In terms of the illumination, each lens is created with 16 precision optical surfaces and 80 facets so as to spread the light evenly. As a result,  only one LED is required per lamp.  As for the strength, Ford lighting expert John Teodecki literally stood on one of the 11-lb. lamp assemblies and said, “We fire stones  at this headlamp, expose it to extreme sun, soak it in saltwater, shoot rocks, rock salt and ice—this thing is very tough to crack.”

As it is made hard to break, this means that it is less likely to require replacement, which means fewer resources are required. Ford worked with OSRAM ( and Flex-N-Gate ( on the development of the lamp.

There is a whole other realm of materials that are going into the 2015 F-150 that speak to the attention to environmental detail that has gone into the development of the truck.

• Soy-based polyurethane. Soy-bean-based foam is used for the seat backs, headliners, and seat cushions.
• Plastic bottles. Approximately 100 plastic beverage bottles are used in the cloth seat fabric.
• Rice: The wiring harness includes 10% rice hull content.
• Castor oil-based nylon. Used in the fuel lines.
• Used clothing. Recycled cotton and blue jean production scrap are used for sound insulation.
• Recycled tires and post-consumer recycled polypropylene. Used in the underbody cover.
• Soy and car tires. Recycled tires and soybeans are used in the material for the exterior mirrors.

Evidently, when the truck that’s been the best-selling in the U.S. market for 37 years running and the best-selling vehicle overall for 32 straight years is one where such attention is paid to making it more environmentally sound, this is the way work will be done across the board going forward by every company in the industry