The Aluminum F-150 Is Here But Is It Better Than Steel?

The release of the 2015 Ford F-150 has brought the Aluminum vs Steel debate to the forefront in the truck driving community. In order to improve fuel economy, the engineers at Ford considered creating an alternative powerplant and downsizing but the team always came back to weight reduction as the best means for improving strength and economy.  In this article we will delve into an in-depth discussion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the new Aluminum F-150.

As a starting point, it seems that any time the aluminum vs steel debate arises it centers around three primary issues: (1) Strength, (2) Fuel Economy, and (3) Cost. So we will dive into each issue individually to determine whether the 2015 F-150 is truly the future of tough or just a mere flash in the pan. First up, strength.

The F-150 Aluminum Body Is BUILT FORD TOUGH

By now, you have undoubtedly heard that the 2015 Ford F-150 is constructed with a high-strength steel frame and military grade aluminum alloy body, but what is military grade aluminum exactly? Well, aluminum on its own is not the strongest of metals so it has to be combined with other metals to produce an alloy. The new F-150 is primarily built from 6,000 series aluminum alloy, the strength of which is increased by heat-treating after it is formed. By using different alloy mixtures and heat treating them, the Ford engineers have made actually the aluminum even stronger than the steel that it is replacing.

One of the other benefits of using aluminum is that it is not as dense as steel which allows Ford engineers to add additional gauge, or thickness, to the aluminum while still remaining lighter than its steel counterpart.

It is interesting to note that the history of aluminum in the automobile goes almost all the way back to its very inception. Henry Ford's Model T only churned out about 20 horsepower so he knew that the body would need to be light in order for the vehicle to perform. So back in the early 20th century he added aluminum to the hood to keep the weight below 2,000 pounds.


The Aluminum F-150 Delivers The Good On Fuel Economy

There has been much speculation about the fuel economy of the new Aluminum F-150, but the numbers are in and the numbers are impressive. The new 2015 Ford F-150 has shed over 700lbs and now the 2.7L V6 Ecoboost get 19mpg City and 26mpg Hwy for a combined 22MPG.

"That's a pretty big jump" IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. "They've raised the bar in some areas. Fuel economy matters in this market because so many of these trucks are used for work."

In addition to the lighter body weight, the new aluminum F-150 has achieved a 23 percent aerodynamic drag improvement due to the addition of grille shutters and better cab and bed design. That means that the full-size 2015 Ford F-150 is the most fuel efficient gasoline truck on the market. The aluminum F-150 gets better fuel economy than Chevy's mid-size 2016 Colorado and better fuel economy than the 4 cylinder Toyota Tacoma. 

Yeah Ok, But What About Repair Costs On The 2015 F-150?

Many detractors of the new F-150 have argued that since aluminum is more expensive than steel the insurance costs will go through the roof and repair costs will be more expensive. Well let's face it, aluminum is expensive and, frankly, it is more expensive than steel. But this fact alone will not substantially impact insurance costs.

Insurance costs should remain fairly stagnant because most insurance premiums are centered around liability coverage and not collision repair. In addition, Ford has taken a strong stance that repair costs on the new F-150 will be similar to any competitive pickup. According to a Ford spokesperson, "while high-strength aluminum alloy is more expensive than steel on a pound for pound basis, we've developed manufacturing efficiencies to to reduce this cost as much as possible."

That being said, the true cost of ownership does remain to be seen. But there is no doubt that in the Aluminum vs Steel battle aluminum is gaining an upper hand with the new 2015 Ford F-150. Please feel free to browse our new Ford F-Series inventory or order a Free 2015 F-150 Brochure.