No beer-can body construction this time.
The current generation Ford F-150 differs from every single one of its predecessors as well as its current and past crop of competitors in one key way: an aluminum body. Back in 2015, Ford made the bold decision to switch from steel to an all-aluminum body as part of an effort to dramatically cut down on weight. A total of 700 pounds was shaved off the best-selling vehicle. More fuel efficient than ever, the F-150 became a smash hit once again.
So wouldn’t it make at least some sense for Ford to use an aluminum body for its redesigned signature SUV, the 2020 Explorer? Yes, but according to The Detroit Free Press, engineers realized aluminum was not necessary.
"Weight was a factor in every decision we made,” said Explorer chief engineer Bill Gubing. "We looked at every part.” The 2020 Explorer’s build materials include steel, aluminum, magnesium, and plastic. The steel industry has since responded given the rise of aluminum car bodies with lighter and stronger steel blends. Competition forced innovation. The 2020 Explorer, thanks to its mixed body materials, is 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor despite an array of new features. In addition, the SUV is 36 percent torsionally stiffer. "The Explorer is the most use of mixed materials ever by Ford,” Gubing added. "We considered all-aluminum.”
In the end, the Explorer’s body is all steel. The only piece that's fully aluminum? The hood. Explorer engineers realized new steel advancements could also satisfy their goals, and the attention to details is extraordinary. A few examples include pieces of steel strategically cut from a tube in the chassis to reduce weight by removing materials where it wasn’t necessary, and a range of new steel grades and processes for various purposes. These include stretch-bending, hydroforming, high-strength, and ultra-high-strength. Lightweight magnesium was also used for a beam that runs across the Explorer behind the dashboard.
Wherever engineers could cut weight with smart use of lightweight materials – whether they were aluminum, magnesium, or steel – it was done.