Consumer demand and government regulations are forcing automakers to adapt to a new reality when it comes to engine power and fuel economy. Thanks to years of high gas prices, customers are no longer content to drive large, inefficient vehicles that force them to fill up all too regularly. Meanwhile, the federal government has laid down new mileage standards that will require require new cars and trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving by 2025.
There are a number of ways that automakers can reach this goal. They can—and have—produce and sell more small cars and hybrids. But they are also reluctant to give up on the profit margins they can earn by manufacturing SUVs and pickup trucks. That's why Ford has announced plans to experiment with new, lighter materials in its popular F-150 model.
The average fuel economy of the Ford fleet has indeed gotten better over time. According to a recent study, the vehicles sold in August averaged 25.8 miles per gallon. However, the F-150 is the bestselling truck in America and only averages about 21 miles per gallon. Ford needs to do better to meet the government's standards.
Slate reports that the company has opted to completely redesign the truck with significantly more aluminum replacing steel components. In light of aluminum's relatively light weight, designers were able to shave about 700 pounds from the overall design—no small feat for a truck that usually weighs about two and a half tons.
This is but one example of the innovation required of auto companies that wish to meet demand for better fuel economy, and there is a role for CNC machining in manufacturing the necessary materials.