With the release of the first crash tests on the new aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 SuperCrew pickup, it seems as if the Dearborn-based automaker made the right decision. According to thecarconnection.com, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the Ford F-150 SuperCrew has passed its initial crash tests with flying colors. The tests were held in February at the agency’s test facilities.
The SuperCrew model features a full-sized cab with seating for five to six, depending on the front seat choices. With two buckets seats, the SuperCrew can seat five and with a traditional bench, the pickup can seat six. The SuperCrew model, the only aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford pickup that has undergone crash testing so far, passed the frontal and side crash tests that NHTSA conducted. Those tests included the side pole test that simulates the F-150 striking a tree or a utility pole at 20 mph. The pickup passed the tests with five-star ratings, the top mark the agency awards.
With this boost, the SuperCrew awaits the results of the other major crash-testing program conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Last year, before the release of the all-new, aluminum-bodied F-150, the SuperCrew was rated “good” in all IIHS tests. The only area where there were no results was in the small overlap frontal test. This test, thecarconnection.com notes, provides a bit of differentiation between new vehicles.
Though the SuperCrew is covered by this test, the other F-150 models, the standard and the SuperCab, a model featuring a smaller cab with seating for five, and easy access to the rear, are not.
The 2015 F-150 was a real gamble for Ford. Although aluminum has been used structurally for some time in the airline industry, it has only been used in items such as engines, as well as some body panels. The all-new F-150 that went on sale this year features the first major use of aluminum in key body components, large load-bearing parts and panels. The shift to aluminum from steel body parts has resulted in an increase of about two miles per gallon overall for the F-150. It has also saved at least 300 pounds of overall weight.
The new ratings have proven that Ford’s hunch that it had found the proper method of dealing with large aluminum panels. The problem with aluminum is its underlying crystalline matrix. In typical automotive metals, the matrix tends to be very stable because it is aligned closely. In a typical aluminum ingot, though, the crystal structure tends to be more random. The random nature of aluminum’s crystalline structure means that aluminum tends to be brittle and can actually break. In order to force aluminum into a form that is usable, more manipulation is required and that does raise the cost.
In the airline industry, since the products are so expensive in the first place, it is a given that highly manipulated aluminum panels will be used. For the auto industry, the costs would have been too high. However, Ford did find a way to increase the usefulness of aluminum so that it was able to use the aluminum in its major body parts and panels.