Ford builds flyweight family car
Ford has found ways to trim the majority of bulk out of the average family car, paving the way for more efficient vehicles.
The blue oval's North American arm has built six examples of its family-sized Fusion sedan that weigh 25 per cent (up to 400kg) less than comparable models.
The savings come from the use of aluminium and carbon fibre, as well as hollow suspension parts and tall carbon-fibre wheels with skinny tyres.
It also features plastic windows, a small 1.0-litre engine and lightweight seats and other interior parts.
Luxury manufacturers such as BMW and Jaguar make extensive use of materials such as carbon fibre and aluminium in the structure of some new cars such as the i8 supercar and upcoming XE sedan.
More affordable models, such as the Holden Commodore, have introduced some alumiunium panels to save weight but the car's core structure is usually made from heavier steel.
Matt Zaluzec, Ford's technical leader for materials and manufacturing research, says the lightweight Fusion is just as safe and reliable as its conventional cousin.
"Our goal was to investigate how to design and build a mixed-materials, lightweight vehicle that could potentially be produced in high volume, while providing the same level of safety, durability and toughness as our vehicles on the road today," he says.
"The Lightweight Concept gives us the platform to continue to explore the right mix of materials and applications for future vehicles."
Raj Nair, Ford group vice president for global product development, says light weight technology will continue to be a focus of the car industry.
"Consumers today want better fuel efficiency, but they also want more technology and features in the car, which usually adds weight to the vehicle," he says.
"A focus on light-weighting will be fundamental to our industry for years to come, and we are investigating many advanced materials applications as possible solutions for weight reduction in our vehicles."
Ford is also working with Samsung to develop smaller, lighter batteries for road cars. Prototype lithium ion batteries produced by the duo are 40 per cent lighter and 25 to 30 per cent smaller than conventional lead acid batteries used in cars today.
Ford says better batteries will allow more cars to hargvest kinetic energy while braking, using that power to save fuel in a similar manner to Mazda's i-Eloop system seen in cars such as the Mazda6 and Mazda CX-5.
Sydney Morning Herald