When it came time to update the F‑150, Ford might have played it safe with incremental improvements. After all, Ford’s F-Series line of full-size trucks has been America’s best-selling truck for 38 years, and the best-selling vehicle of any kind for 33 years. Instead, we redesigned the 2015 F‑150 from the wheels up, with major changes in design and materials that make it the toughest, smartest, most capable and fuel-efficient F‑150 ever.
“Closed loop” aluminum and seat fabric recycling processes significantly reduce life-cycle waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the amount of high-strength steel in the new F‑150’s frame from 22 percent to 77 percent and dramatically expanding the use of high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy in its body helped Ford engineers cut overall vehicle weight by up to 700 pounds. Yet the new F‑150 tows up to an additional 1,100 pounds, accelerates faster and brakes more quickly.
These and other smart engineering choices required Ford to redesign much of its production process – but the result was worth the investment. The all-new 2015 F‑150 is not only the best performing but the most sustainable truck ever to roll off a Ford assembly line.
“We set out to create the future of tough with the new F‑150. We achieved this goal while simultaneously delivering the highest EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of any full-size gas-powered pickup in America.”
Ford made a big investment in closed-loop recycling for the 2015 F‑150, partnering with aluminum suppliers Novelis and Alcoa to recycle aluminum scraps from Ford’s manufacturing process directly into aluminum for more F‑150s. These scraps, most of which come from stamping windows into body panels, make up as much as 40 percent of the original metal used.
Aluminum is infinitely recyclable. Recycled aluminum requires 95 percent less energy than refining raw aluminum from bauxite, uses significantly less energy and water, and avoids the environmental impacts of mining virgin metal. But the aluminum scraps must be in pristine condition to be recycled into high-strength auto bodies. To achieve this level of purity, Ford invested $60 million in special recycling equipment that keeps the aluminum scrap separate from other metals, divides it into six different alloys, cleans and shreds it, and sucks it into pneumatic tubes that lead to trucks dedicated solely to this process. Every day, about 50 semi-tractor trailers used to deliver fresh supplies of aluminum later drive away from Ford’s F‑150 plant in Dearborn, Michigan, filled with sorted aluminum alloys.
Once back at Ford’s aluminum suppliers (which also invested in new technology for this process), the scraps are melted, impurities are removed, and the molten metal is remanufactured and shipped in large coils back to Ford stamping plants, where they go straight back into the manufacturing process from which they emerged. This approach is elaborate but extraordinarily efficient, preserving 90 percent of the original aluminum and reducing environmental impacts and costs. And it enabled the 2015 F‑150 to become the first mass-assembly pickup ever produced with a high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy cargo box, closures, body structure.
The closed loop aluminum recycling process used in the F‑150 received an inaugural Michigan Governor’s Recycling Award, and earned the F‑150 the top spot among pickups in the AAA’s 2015 Green Car Guide. The Wall Street Journal described the 2015 F‑150 as “perhaps the most important vehicle to hit Ford dealerships in decades.”
Ford works with a different supplier to develop another closed-loop recycling process in the 2015 F‑150 and several other vehicles: waste material from seat fabric production is turned into new yarns that are woven back into the seat fabrics, keeping the scraps from the landfill. Since 2012, Ford has worked with Unifi and Sage Automotive to bring environmentally responsible, high-performance REPREVE® fiber to many Ford vehicles, like the 2015 F‑150, Fusion and Edge. The recycled seat fabric fibers are made from 100 percent recycled material, like plastic bottles and post-industrial plastic waste. About 30 20-ounce plastic water bottles go into the seat fabric of each F‑150 XLT. Overall, Ford’s use of REPREVE® in the F‑150 will divert more than 5 million plastic bottles from landfill in 2015 alone.
Light-Weighting the New F‑150
It seems intuitive that reducing a truck’s weight would also reduce its toughness and performance. The all-new 2015 Ford F‑150, which represents Ford’s most extensive use of advanced lightweight materials ever, turns that expectation on its head.
Consider this: Increasing the use of high-strength steel in the F‑150’s frame makes it structurally more rigid while reducing weight by up to 60 pounds. Expanded use of high-strength aluminum alloys in the F‑150’s body improves dent and ding resistance while helping to reduce weight. These and other innovations make the 2015 F‑150 up to 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor – while improving fuel efficiency, toughness and performance. Combined with EcoBoost® engine technology, the 2015 F‑150 can tow up to 1,100 pounds and haul up to 530 pounds more than its 2014 counterpart, with a 5 percent to 16 percent better power-to-weight ratio. Overall, the 2015 models get from 5 percent to 29 percent better EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings than comparable 2014 models.1
Changes of this magnitude in a single year require bold thinking and design coupled with major investments in the right kinds of technology.
- EPA-estimated city fuel economy ratings for the 2015 F‑150 lineup range from 15 mpg for the 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 to 19 mpg for the 2.7L EcoBoost V6. The highest estimated improvement of 29 percent is based on a comparison of the EPA-estimated combined fuel economy ratings for the all-new 2015 2.7L EcoBoost V6 4×2 (22 mpg) and the 2014 5.0L V8 4×2 (17 mpg).