FORD is set to expand the use of lightweight materials – including aluminium and carbon fibre – as part of an extensive fuel-saving program.
The company will use its upcoming Ford GT supercar (a car that won’t be sold in Australia because it has the steering wheel only on the left) as a test bed to learn about working with carbon fibre.
Carbon-fibre has typically been reserved for low-volume sports cars, such as the Lamborghini Aventador and McLaren 650S. More recently it’s been used in the BMW i3 and i8 electric and plug-in hybrid cars and is becoming more accepted for mass production applications.
“We are really focused on light weighting,” said Ford’s group vice-president and chief technical officer, Raj Nair.
“I think you’ll see an increased use of use of all the lightweight materials [on future Fords] – aluminium, high strength steel, boron steels, magnesium and carbon fibre. Carbon fibre probably has applications that are higher volume than [the GT] going forward.”
Ford surprised the automotive industry in 2014 when it confirmed its F-Series pick-up truck – a car now on sale in the US – would use a largely aluminium body, reducing weight and fuel use and allowing for the use of smaller engines.
Lightweight materials – which are generally more expensive to produce and often cost more to repair - will also play a role in the development of future performance models, including the Focus RS hot hatch revealed at the 2015 Geneva motor show.
Powering all four wheels for the first time, the new RS – which goes on sale in Australia early in 2016 – produces 235kW from its 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo.
However, it could be the only sporty RS model in the Ford range.
“We’d never say never, but typically RS has been exclusive to a single vehicle in the line-up,” said Mr Nair.
“If you were to look at our [performance car] pyramid, you have the Focus ST, the Mustang GT, the next level of that pyramid we would have the Shelby GT350, the Mustang, the Focus RS … and even perhaps the [F-Series] Raptor. And obviously the pinnacle of the pyramid is the Ford GT.”