The future of Ford vehicles was recently on display when the automaker unveiled its new Lightweight Concept. Besides an exterior that looks like a failed attempt at creating a Tron-like vehicle, the concept car looks just like a regular Ford Fusion. The big deal is what sits under the skin of the car, which is a whole array of lightweight materials. Putting the Fusion on the high-tech diet means it tips the scale at just 2,635 pounds, which is roughly the same as the curb weight for the Fiesta. In comparison, the current production version of the Fusion has a curb weight of over 3,400 pounds.
Why should anyone care about a lighter Fusion? First of all, the weight reduction translates into much better fuel economy. Unless you really love the leathery hot dogs rotating in the glass case at your local service station, this means you will be spending much less time filling up. Ford engineers expect the Lightweight Concept to achieve about 25 percent better fuel economy than the stock Fusion.
Naturally, Ford used aluminum in various components, including the front subframe, doors, sills, brake rotors, and much of the transmission. High-strength steel was used for the B-pillar. The springs in the suspension are made of a lightweight composite. The car is powered by a 1.0-lliter EcoBoost engine, complete with crankshaft and stabilizer bars that are hollow. Even carbon fiber is used for the seat frames, oil pan, and even the 19-inch wheels. Polycarbonate was used for the back window, while the side windows are derived from a chemically treated glass.
All of the lightweight materials resulted in a 30 percent reduction in unsprung weight. Anyone who knows car performance recognizes this is a big deal, not only when it comes to fuel savings but also when it comes to improving the car’s handling. The interior and all the glass shed about 35 percent of its total weight, while the powertrain shed about 24 percent over the stock version of the car.