Ford has announced that its partnership with Alcoa, Inc. will yield use of Micromill aluminum technology in future vehicles. The 2016 Ford F-150 will be the first model to use the advanced construction material commercially.
Micromill produces an aluminum alloy that is 40 percent more formable than present automotive-grade aluminum. The benefits to its malleable nature are that it can be shaped into more intricate forms like the inside of door panels and fenders. Not only is it easier to mold, it’s also easier to produce and is stronger than regular aluminum, meaning a thinner sheet of Micromill won’t compromise exterior panel integrity (it won’t dent more than a thicker sheet of standard aluminum).
‘‘Light-weighting enables us to design vehicles with great customer attributes — like the F-150, which can tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop faster than the previous F-150, and is more fuel-efficient than ever,” said Ford Group vice president and chief technical officer Raj Nair. He went on to mention that Micromill aluminum will be applied to the next “several years on a range of vehicle components and future platforms.”
Obviously the use of lighter, more adaptable aluminum means Ford models will continue to shed weight beyond what Ford has already seen in switching from steel (the 2015 Ford F-150 lost 700 pounds during its transition).
While ultra high-end performance models like the 2017 Ford GT will continue to look to carbon fiber composites for durability and lightness, future Mustangs and hot hatchbacks like the Focus RS could switch to Micromill aluminum and benefit greatly from improved power-to-weight ratios. That will also help Ford slide under the radar of the EPA, which will continue to demand improved fuel economy.
The use of Micromill aluminum alloy on some components of the 2016 F-150 starts in the fourth quarter of 2015, with additional parts transitioning to the new material in 2016.