By on September 18, 2014

2015-ford-f-150

Though Ford is going all in on aluminum for its upcoming F-150, with General Motors following suit soon after, one supplier believes lightweight steel can be just as effective as the alloy best known for holding beer and keeping turkeys juicy in the oven.

Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal is offering two such solutions for helping light-duty pickups meet ever-tightening CAFE mandates, going so far as to rebuild a 2009 model using newer steel components for a 23 percent reduction of 384 pounds in comparison to a similar 2014 model.

In contrast, the 2015 F-150 gains a 732-pound loss over the outgoing 2014 version on the truck scale, a result of extensive use of aluminum in the body panels throughout the new truck.

No matter the solution, both offerings would likely find a place at the table as every automaker fights to hit a CAFE-mandated fleet average of 54.5 mpg by 2025. That said, aluminum may be going up to bat more times than lightweight steel alloys in order to meet the target.

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54 Comments on “Supplier Believes Lightweight Steel Has A Place In Light-Duty Pickups...”


  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    BS. Why didn’t they offer that up to Ford before they went aluminum?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Its called back-to-the-wall time. No doubt, the capability was always there. The need for such capability didn’t become apparent until the manufacturer is suddenly facing a complete loss of market to another material.

      • 0 avatar
        turf3

        I would be very very surprised if the use of high strength low alloy steel was not considered in the weight reduction program for the Ford pickups. In fact, they may very well be doing so for some components and just not publicizing it as much as the aluminum body panels, because in the world of marketeering, “aluminum” sounds “lighter”.

        There are tradeoffs. Plain carbon steel is cheaper than Al for body panels, but HSLA steel may not be. Dent resistance and the ability to sand and refinish are also concerns. Also, by definition high strength alloys are higher strength, thus more difficult to form into body panel shapes, with greater rates of die wear.

        Believe me, high strength steel is not some kind of super secret that Ford’s material suppliers failed to inform them of. It is a choice among several and instead of HSLA steel, Ford chose aluminum for some well-publicized body panels. Still no news here.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Breaking News: World’s largest steel producer says steel is good.

  • avatar
    redav

    “Supplier Believes Lightweight Steel Has a Place in Light-duty Pickups”
    – Duh. Not many suppliers out there believe their product doesn’t have a place in industry. But in this case, of course they’re right.

    Lightweight steel is already making extensive inroads throughout the whole auto industry, not just trucks.

    Also, the F-150 achieved the weight loss through far more than just substituting aluminum. We’re going to see many more weight reduction tricks on all cars in the coming years.

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    “In contrast, the 2015 F-150 gains a 732-pound loss over the outgoing 2014 version…”

    I had to re-read that line a few times to understand it…Lol!

  • avatar

    I’m only slightly unsure as to how Ford’s aluminum bet will turn out. Historically, every time Ford tries to innovate or come up with something new, it ends up being a rousing success that has the other automakers scrambling to follow. So there’s a good chance that this is the future of pickups everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Tinn-Can

      There is an equally good chance it will just fall apart after three years as is their custom…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Ford’s history with aluminum body panels has been spotty. Color me skeptical, but I worked in the autobody repair business when they went all gung-ho with aluminum panels and remember those flaky messes the local dealer would send us. Extensive use of Al panels is not new to Ford, the new F150 is the first time they’ve played it up this hard or gone so far.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        How were the hoods?

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Awful. Hoods, liftgates and decklids. 3 year old vehicles with paint flaking off in large swaths.

          • 0 avatar
            pragmatic

            I’m sure there were issues. Ford never seems to get it right out of the box but eventually it will work. My 2000 Lincoln with Aluminum hood, truck and front fenders still looks good. I’m getting a little paint coming off the very bottom trailing edge of the front fenders. The rest looks great. I wish I could say the same about the steel under neither the car, which is rapidly disappearing.

  • avatar
    turf3

    There is no such thing as lightweight steel. All steel has the same density within a few percentage points. There are, however, a number of high STRENGTH alloys that, when applied, allow the use of thinner gauges of sheet metal and material reductions in other components, thus allowing lighter weight components.

    High strength stampable steel alloys have been used in automotive stamped components (frame rails, etc.) for at least 20 years for weight reduction. High strength steel alloys in general have been used for forged and cast automotive components for weight reduction since the days of the Model T.

    Sorry, but there is no news here.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      This is nothing more than rewording a statement to appeal to a certain market, and getting your point across quickly. Lightweight steel hits home a lot quicker than, “high strength steel, so you can use less, thus saving weight”.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @Syke, right. My 2010 Highlander uses high strength steel extensively and managed to be the lightest weight, fastest 0-60, shortest braking distance of the class, and have a high safety rating. All things that were helped by lightweight high strength steel.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      High strength steel is no more rigid than regular steel. It just deflects more before it takes a set, thus carrying a higher load. Useful for crash frames.

      If you make smaller cross section parts from HSS, it’ll be less rigid in normal use – Young’s modulus is the same, so smaller cross section equates to more deflection for the same load.

      I’ll quote this from a letter to Car and Driver, from someone else as frustrated as I am that people cannot get it right, i.e. Strength is not Stiffness:

      ” Why does Car and Driver (and every other magazine) insist on saying that a car has gotten stiffer due to increased usage of high-tensile or high-strength steel? Those terms only refer to the strength of the steel, which doesn’t impact the stiffness. All carbon steel has pretty much the identical stiffness, or Young’s modulus, of 30 million psi. The only way to make a steel structure stiffer is through design geometry or increasing its thickness. The strength of the steel improves crashworthiness. Please help spread the word.”

      So this steel company ArcelorMittal is only telling half the truth – typical.

      Aluminun alloys can vary wildly in actual stiffness. That’s why actual structural engineers can do something with the stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Using high strength steel, you can design components with thinner walls, hence either make them lighter for the same thickness, or larger/stiffer for the same weight. It’s most easily observed in steel tubing.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          I think we’re just talking about body panels in this situation of aluminum displacing steel. In that case, the only way to make them lighter with stronger steel is to make them thinner, so they will be more flexible.

          While I’m sure that high strength steels will continue to improve the strength and reduce the mass of vehicle structures, I agree with turf3 that the term “lightweight steel” is ridiculous.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Titanium, anyone?

    Now seriously, in the future we may see extended use of exotic materials, including composites.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Aluminum is not really exotic in the sense Ti is. If I’m not crazy (or perhaps even if I am) Aluminum is a more common element than Iron. It’s just harder to refine into free, metallic, usable form than many heavier metals. Ti is just genuinely exotic. Both as in rare, and as in awesome, kickass, heck yeah, superhero, space program, I want everything I own made of it, cool….

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Titanium is far more common in the earth’s crust than such non-exotics as nickel, copper, zinc, lead, and tin. But it’s expensive to refine, and structural grades of titanium are expensive to form and machine.

        Beautiful stuff though. I own a couple of bicycle handlebars made of 3AL-2.5V titanium, mostly just because I enjoy having it in my view. A bare titanium frame from a quality manufacturer is a thing to behold.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Bauxite is the most common source of aluminum but needs a lot of electricity to process or concentrate into aluminum. It is more common than steel but for the most part we didn’t have the refining capacity until the 20th century.
        One advantage that aluminum has over steel is that it can be recycled multiple times and is more easy to recycle.

  • avatar
    George B

    My favorite use for high-strength steel is to make A-pillars strong enough to meet current safety standards and insurance crash tests without making them as thick as tree trunks.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Bet RAM moves in this direction with the next generation pickups. It wouldn’t require a complete redo of the assembly process as Ford is now in the middle of with the switch to aluminum.

    • 0 avatar
      bosozoku

      Maybe FCA will take the Rams in a different direction, perhaps using HSLA steel combined with sparing use of plastic or composite panels?

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Plastic, fiber or composite box side panels are fine by me. These areas of the truck aren’t as crucial for passenger protection in the event of a crash and they tend to be the first place corrosion sets in on the vehicle when they’re constructed of alloy. My F-150 has fiberglass box sides, still looking great 11 years in.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @bosozoku – GM is already reported to be going to aluminum with their trucks. Ram may have no choice since Ford and GM will have contracts in place for aluminum. I suspect that there isn’t enough capacity to meet the demand for aluminum from 3 car companies.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Does high strength steel prevent rust and better than normal steel bodies? Seems like the thin gauge will compromise it much faster.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @DenverMike – it would depend on the metallurgy of the high strength steel. I suspect that a higher carbon content would make the steel more rust resistant but potentially more brittle.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I sort of work in aviation engineering……

    And I have brought this issue to the attention of many who do comment on these forums.

    Aluminium can provide a 40% weight reduction in weight over traditional steel fabricated vehicles.

    High tensile steel can provide a 35% weight saving.

    The 2015 F-150 as is shown in the lead photo is a prime example of a vehicle that indicates to me that Ford might have jumped the gun regarding the most efficient use of existing material technology. This is a truck. A light commercial vehicle.

    Many have been awed by the new aluminium F-150, preaching about its great advantages. But what do they amount to? A measly 5%.

    This is why I do think Fiat/Ram have made the wisest decision in relation to the materials used in the construction of their pickup.

    The additional cost of the F-150 and the technology required to mass produce a very cheap vehicle might be more than they can chew.

    Ford still hasn’t resolved the use of aluminium in mass production of a cheap vehicle. It will cost more than a steel vehicle, even a high tensile steel body.

    The weight savings might not be what most have expected either.

    Ford might have screwed up here. GM is heading down the same street as Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      What does “sort of” mean? Mop Squeezer??

      Ford might have gone too fast, too soon, but you do realize the F-150 is the most profitable car in the world? There’s a lot of room for missteps here or there.

      Aluminum is just the next natural step in auto manufacturing. Rocket Science? Maybe. But it’ll take decades for midsize pickups to implement it, so isn’t that why you’re so negative and fretful of this clear advancement?

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        See, this is why I wait until after the event happens, so I can either say, “I told you so!” or mumble, “yeah, I didn’t think it would work either.” Like a weasel.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      BAFO,

      When you finally get around to taking Engineering 101 instead of inventing ridiculous things in your head, the world will be a better place.

      You spout Gobbledeygook.

      Instead, take a basic course in strength of materials, which includes Young’s modulus when comparing load/deflection curves. Then you will develop a BS detector when people talk rubbish – just like me when I read your “authoritative” pronouncements.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    Thank you!!! All steel weighs the same and “steel” is no more than 3% alloy. Stainless steel is more mike 30% alloy, but it ain’t stainless of course. It’s just higher tensile and thinner. Cars are already made out of 26 ga steel, maybe they’ll go to 30 ga, just don’t sit on a fender.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @jdash1972 – stainless steel has a high nickel content. The oxidization of nickel forms a film on the steel impeding rust. (That is how I recall how it works – I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong. LOL)

  • avatar
    319583076

    I hold two engineering licenses – Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer. You can decide what that means to you.

    I design/have designed buildings, bridges, and machinery. What isn’t mentioned and isn’t intuitively clear in these discussions is that the strength of the steel is seldom the governing factor in member design. Elastic deformation of the material almost always is. Steel strength is not a factor in deformation, a material property called the modulus of elasticity embodies material resistance to deformation. Steel modulus of elasticity is invariable with respect to steel strength. In other words, the high strength steels deflect just as much as the low strength steels under the same load. If you can reduce the amount of steel you use for strength – you have to offset that reduction or accept greater deformation in the performance of the part.

    Facts about steel – steel has greater strength than any other commercially available material. Steel has greater rigidity (stiffness) than any other commercially available material. Steel is approximately three times stiffer than aluminum. Finally, steel is a ductile material with a well-defined yield point. Aluminum does not exhibit a well-defined yield point and is relatively brittle compared to steel.

    If you’re going to ask why airplanes aren’t made out of steel, the answer is that weight is paramount for aircraft performance and efficiency. Accepting the relative deficiencies of aluminum w/r/t steel results in achieving desired performance and efficiency. However, a long-run penalty to using aluminum airframes is a poorly-defined fatigue life which incurs additional inspection costs and loss of economy due to a poorly defined service life, i.e. – you must retire an old airframe before it breaks but you can’t really know very accurately when it’s going to break so you retire it early – trading off the loss of economic service life against the risk to public safety and your asset.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      And you can’t try to squeeze “one more flight” out of a possibly-fatigued airliner because that’s the sort of thing that leads to disaster.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Listen, aluminum is the future of vehicle construction, period. Why do you hate progress?

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Who said he hates progress?

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        A story. I worked at McDonalds for a couple of years when I was in high school. At the time, McD sold double quarter pounder with cheese “value meals”. Nearly everyone that ordered one of these meals opted to supersize the fries and drink. Do you wanna guess what they wanted to drink?

        Diet F&*#&$g Coke.

        Sometimes even saying, “You better give me a Diet Coke!” as though somehow shoving all of that crap down your throat was OK if washed down with the “healthy soda” (oxymoron).

        There is exactly one (and only one!) reason a person chooses a super-sized quarter pounder with cheese meal. Gluttony. 48! (64?) ounces of artificially sweetened, carbonated, artificially colored, acidified water doesn’t change that. It compounds the sin. It makes you a dishonest glutton. That or some form of total separation between your mind and objective reality.

        SS DQPC VM + DC = OK!
        2015 F-150 + Al = PROGRESS!

        See what I’m sayin?

        FYI, I got your drift, Danio. This wasn’t for you…

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          The type of person who frequents McDonald’s to order a supersized meal is probably not exactly a Rhodes scholar in the first place.

          And I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, danio, there really needs to be a sarcasm button on the Internet so people like me don’t make butts of themselves.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    My guess is it is not about the 5% strength to weight difference, but the corrosion resistance for the salt belt market.

    Yes, you can use thinner high strength light weight steel, but then your truck will rust a lot sooner than an aluminum truck of the same strength because 1) the aluminum truck will have thicker metal body for the same strength and weight, and 2) aluminum itself is more corrosion resistant than steel.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    So..I and going to ask this due to the fact that I dont know…So maybe some of you guys in the know will enlighten me. How come no one is using Nano Steel or Nano Aluminum? Or is High strength steel the same thing? I read about these about four years ago and they both seemed promising.

  • avatar
    turf3

    As for “strength”, there are actually four measures that are correctly called “strength”, and then there’s stiffness which is often incorrectly called “strength”.

    1) Tensile strength is the stress at which the material will part altogether. (Pull on a rubber band till it snaps; that’s the tensile strength of the material.)
    2) Yield strength is the stress at which the material will deform permanently. (Bend a paper clip.)
    3) High cycle fatigue strength is the stress level at which a component can be flexed back and forth (at a stress level well below the yield strength) without failing for an essentially indefinite period of time.
    4) Low cycle fatigue is the stress level at which a component can be flexed back and forth (at a stress level very close to yield strength, or even with yielding deformation) without failing for a defined number of cycles.
    5) And finally, stiffness is the relationship between force and deflection for stress levels below the yield strength.

    Stiffness of all steels is essentially the same. Stiffness of all aluminum alloys is essentially the same, and considerably lower than that of steel. This means two steel components (or two aluminum components) of the same cross section subjected to the same load, below the yield stress, will deflect the same amount.

    Yield strength, tensile strength, low cycle and high cycle fatigue strength are all highly variable among alloys of the same material (and for many of those alloys they are also highly dependent on processing) and are highly variable between different materials.

    It is not a complete statement, for example, to say “steel is stronger than aluminum.” What alloy? How was it processed? There are many aluminum alloys that are stronger than many steel alloys, if you are considering one or two measures of strength.

    There are many different types of components in an automobile body. Here are some examples of trade-offs that would affct them.

    1) Body panels. They need to be made from a ductile alloy (low carbon steel, low alloy Al – low yield strength) so they can be easily formed with acceptable die wear. But they need to have a sufficient combination of yield strength and thickness, plus shape, to resist denting. Body panels that are involved in crashworthiness need to have sufficient yield strength for their function. They are usually spot welded, which is a process well-developed for low carbon steel, but not so much for Al. Tensile strength would be an issue in forming possibly, but I can’t imagine tensile strength or fatigue strength being much of an issue in operation. Steel tends to corrode more than Al, but watch out for galvanic corrosion.

    2) Frame rails. There’s a lot less deformation in production, usually, so higher strength materials can be used. Tensile strength is probably not an issue. I think yield strength could be an issue, both for crashworthiness and for overloading conditions. High cycle fatigue could definitely be a concern.

    And so on. I’m sure my quick comments have left out several factors that have to be considered, never mind cost considerations. So this is why I get annoyed when people make statements like “BS. Why didn’t they offer that up to Ford before they went aluminum?” The decision to go away from a well-proven material in an application like this is extremely complex, and sometimes they make the wrong choice. But it’s never the “we decided in ten minutes over drinks to change materials” kind of process that some people seem to imagine.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @turf3 – IIRC GM was going to head down the aluminum truck path in 2008 a year before Ford. The Great Recession and “Great Bankruptcy” postponed the plan. If Ford chose to start engineering for aluminum in 2008 that would indicate that they were doing the cost/benefit analysis well before that date.

  • avatar
    old fart

    The really big problem is in the rust belt all these thin metal trucks will be eaten alive, the lifespan and durability will be greatly reduced compared to a truck from the eighties . I already see newer trucks getting frame rust even trucks from the ninties have severe frame rot, which you never seen in the older trucks the frames would outlast the truck.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Corrosion protection technology like zinc and e-coating have advanced very significantly since the 80s. The gauge of the sheet metal won’t have much impact on the structural degradation of the components due to corrosion if it can’t start in the first place.

      My anecdotal experience has shown the opposite of what you’ve noticed, unless we’re talking about Toyota Tacomas. Trucks from the 80s largely rotted to nothing in a decade to a decade and a half in rust belt areas while a 10 year old pickup is still a relatively valuable commodity today.

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