Ford has asked suppliers at Alcoa to provide a sample of “military grade aluminum” for display alongside the new 2015 Ford F-150 set to be unveiled at January’s Detroit Auto Show. It’s believed that the move is meant to put a tough “spin” on Ford’s extensive use of aluminum, rather than steel, in the construction of the new pickup, and keep the marketing message away from any comparisons to pop cans.
Whether or not the public will “buy” the idea of tough aluminum, though, remains to be seen. “This is already the most significant debut at the auto show,” explained Joe Langley, a production analyst for industry research firm IHS Automotive in a telephone interview with Bloomberg a few days ago. “Everybody’s going to be dissecting (the 2015 Ford F-150) for a long time, especially since Ford will be taking such a big gamble.”
What do you think, dear readers? Is Ford going to have a hard road ahead when it comes to selling aluminum trucks? Will the average truck buyer even realize their new truck is aluminum? Will the weight and fuel economy benefits of aluminum lure fleet customers away from GM and Mercedes-Benz? Let us know what you think in the comments, below.
We’ve been so busy checking out Ford’s rapidly growing fleet of electric vehicles that we let this one slip under our radar, but it just so happens that the largest green roof, or “living roof” as Ford calls it, in North America has been flourishing atop the company’s Dearborn Truck Plant final assembly building at the Ford Rouge Center for the past ten years.
Ford is in a mood to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of its living roof, which is the size of eight football fields and has enough actual greenery to equal a 10.4 acre garden, so let’s check it out.
The Ford Living Roof
Some green roofs can get pretty elaborate, but the Rouge Center living roof, installed by the company Xeroflora, is more of an all-business, nuts-and-bolts green roof than a bells-and-whistles showcase. It’s planted throughout with low-growing, drought resistant sedum, so aside from its enormous size, visually it’s not much to write home about.
However, it gets the job done. In fact, it proves that even a humble-looking sedum roof can yield stunning results.
According to Ford, the roof saves five percent on heating and cooling costs at the building, which adds up in a large building. It is expected to last twice as long as a conventional roof, which piles on more savings.
As for maintenance, the roof is fertilized and weeded once a year, and it never needs mowing.
In addition to the bottom line benefits for Ford, the living roof also supports 35 different species of plants, insects, spiders and birds.
Other environmental benefits include trapping dust, dirt and other pollutants, as well as absorbing carbon dioxide and returning oxygen to the air.
Green Roofs and Stormwater Management
A key function of the roof is stormwater management. It’s actually just one part of a stormwater makeover for the Dearborn facility to reduce pollutants going into the Rouge River. In addition to the green roof the upgrades include a porous pavement parking lot, retention ponds, natural wetlands filtration, and swales (a swale is a wetland area between ridges).
The stormwater system in turn was part of a broader sustainability makeover for the plant, which included capturing fumes from the paint shop, natural lighting, and efficiency upgrades for artificial lighting, heating, ventilation, and cooling systems.
Ford Transitions To A Sustainable Future
Speaking of Ford’s EV fleet, the company has already stepped things up to the next level with its MyEnergi Lifestyle package, which treats your EV as a major appliance on wheels, which can be integrated into a comprehensive home energy management system.
Moving things even farther along, Ford has also partnered with the major home builder KB Home to bundle MyEnergi with the company’s “ZeroHouse 2.0″ model that provides the potential for net zero energy use, with the help of solar panels.
That’s just part of the EV equation, by the way. Among other projects, Ford is looking into squeezing the last bit of juice out of spent EV batteries, with a demonstration used EV battery system in tandem with a solar array, and it’s been adding more bio-based materials to its vehicles (the company is even experimenting with rubber made from dandelion sap).
Tina Casey Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.
What if a company had the ability with a few minor changes on just one product line — to save its customers over a billion dollars on gasoline, and reduce America’s fuel use by an almost unbelievable 22.6 million gallons of gasoline per year, every year? Would that make you want to buy that product? The article, below, first published on Gas 2, suggests a few changes that Ford might make to its F-series trucks.
What do you think? Would these changes be enough to get you into a Ford dealer?
Learning From Elon: What if Ford Went Mirrorless to Save the World?
My first move was to make a rendering of what a Ford F-150 Tremor, with just a few minor, MPG-enhancing changes might look like. I’ve included that, below …
… along with a few notes on my thinking behind the changes.
Lower the truck. For ‘work’ trucks, hauling, etc. a higher truck allows for a softer suspension and a nicer ride, but it also cuts back on fuel economy by increasing frontal area on the tires and by pushing more air over the trucks’ un-aerodynamic underbellies. Something reasonable, like “crossover height” should be a good compromise, with airbag suspension on high-end models making up the difference in ride quality.
Replace the side mirrors with webcams, using shrouded covers that can shade the small “webcams” and keep them functional in direct light/glare.
Cover the tubular running boards with a composite cover to clean up the airflow there. I’d say something about using plant-based plastics here, but Ford’s already doing that.
There’s a large air intake at the front bumper of the F-150s that doesn’t need to be there for most (read: empty-bed) driving. I’ve drawn in a plastic flap to cover this and cleanup the airflow at the front of the truck. Ford has a few options on how to implement this, and could go the Chevy Cruze Eco route of making this flap mechanical, or it could just make it an ultra-cheap manual flap. Bonus: getting engine oil up to temp. in winter would be a lot easier with this simple feature in place.
There are two large tow-hooks on the front bumper of the F-150 which could easily be covered by inexpensive plastic covers that could be “popped off” on those rare occasions when the tow hooks are needed.
Finally, I removed the round foglight cut-outs because it’s not 1987 anymore and they look ridiculous.
What kind of a difference will changes like this really make? With a reduction in frontal area and drag of around 10%, I think a 1 MPG difference on the combined rating is a fairly conservative estimate. Given that the average 2013 F-150 gets 18 MPG. Given, also, that Ford sold 645,316 F-series trucks last year, and that each one of those is driven about 12,000 miles/year, we can get a pretty good idea of how many gallons of gas that might save American drivers.
By my numbers, the figure is a staggering 22.6 million gallons of gas. More than 400,000 55-gallon “barrels” in other words, just from getting 1 more MPG out of the F-150. Don’t take my word for it, though: check the math.
Keep in mind, that’s 22.6 million gallons saved, PER MODEL YEAR. If Ford did something like this for 5 years in a row, they’d save their customers more than 330 million gallons of fuel. At $4/gallon, that’s well over a billion dollars. They’d improve air quality. They’d improve their customers’ health. They’d play a big part in helping America achieve energy independence. All from a few simple changes.
How likely are minor changes like these to get that 1 MPG out of the F-150? Gas 2 commenter and all-around smart dude Neil Blanchard did the math for us in that Tesla article’s comments thread. Here it is, for your enjoyment.
Replacing the optical mirrors with video mirrors reduces the aerodynamic drag two ways: it reduces the frontal area (about 1 square foot?) and also by reducing the coefficient of drag (Cd) because the shape is sleeker and generates less turbulence. The Model S has a Cd of 0.24 – and I’ll make a WAG on the frontal area; say 27 sq ft.
If that is the case, the CdA is 27 x 0.24 = 6.48 sq ft.
Early on, they (Tesla) mentioned a Cd of 0.22 for the Model S, and this may also be from smoother wheels, let’s say for the sake of argument that using video mirrors would yield a Cd of 0.23.
The revised frontal area is 26 sq ft and the revised CdA is 5.98 sq ft. which is a bit over 7.5% reduction.
I’ve been using video mirrors for more than four years, and I have been averaging more than 46MPG all year – it’s a Scion xA and the EPA Combined is 30MPG, so that is a 50%+ improvement.
Actually, charging stations for electric vehicles are popping up all over the place these days, not just in Washington, DC — and that’s a good thing! Ford Motor’s Mike Tinskey has said the total number of charging stations in the U.S. has risen sharply in the past few years to more than 11,500 installed units.
How to find them has been a problem in the past. But that is changing as sophisticated smartphone apps are now providing better information and easier access to EV charging points. Manufacturers of charging stations are forming vast complementary and interconnected charging networks across the country that are available via the new smartphone apps. Which is handy, and a good way to increase range and perhaps your EV’s overall performance. Not to mention lowering anxiety.
One such network is ChargePoint – now the world’s largest EV charging network.
“Through ChargePoint, DBT USA can now provide station owners and EV drivers features including the ability to help with trip planning, manage the cost of charging, and find and operate public stations.” — Green Car Congress
More and better charging stations, entire charging networks made easily accessible via smartphone, combined with recent, significant price drops for EV’s — what’s not to like?
Car manufacturers are getting into the game directly and Nissan’s new network will initially start with 40 of their so-called eVgo Freedom Stations to be installed throughout the greater Washington, DC area — thereby becoming the first network of public fast chargers in the region. Owners of cars like the Nissan LEAF will enjoy the eVgo experience as these fast chargers can give an 80% charge in 30-minutes. Time for a latte? Of course, there’s no range anxiety here.
Ford’s MyFord Mobile teams up with PlugShare to give real-time information on nearby charging stations for Ford hybrid-electric and EV vehicles as you drive through the countryside or city.
“It is a little known fact that the majority of charging stations are currently free to use. By giving drivers a clear view of the reality of charging, PlugShare and Ford are showing more and more drivers that now is a great time to start driving on electricity,” Forrest North, CEO of Xatori, which makes PlugShare, said in a statement. “With our real-time, crowd-sourcing features that include photos, reviews and check-ins, PlugShare has quickly become one of the largest and most popular charging station locators in North America.” — PCMag.com
The MyFord system will conveniently and automatically locate the nearest charger to your favourite pizza joint, Starbucks, the mall, or wherever it is that you are going. I love it when technology plays this nice!
In 1970, of the 89,244 new cars and trucks sold in the U.S.A., 84.9% of them were built in North America, while only 15.1% of them were manufactured in other countries and shipped to this continent for purchase and registration.
In 2012, of the 14.4 million new cars and trucks sold in the U.S.A., 44.5% of them were built in North America, while imports accounted for 55.6% of registrations. Read here.
By any measure, this is an ongoing paradigm shift — which directly relates to American unemployment statistics since 1970.
A total of 15.4 million car and light truck sales are expected in the U.S. for calendar year 2013 — the best year since 2007. By 2014, U.S. sales are expected to reach 16 million, with imports continuing to increase their market share in the U.S.
Since the first Model T Ford rolled off the Dearborn, MI assembly line, millions of workers have been employed by American automakers – including some workers who worked for the same company their entire career. Fathers who worked at Ford, GM or Chrysler from their childhood until retirement, found their sons and daughters good-paying jobs with their old employers. Unemployment in the 1945 – 1975 era was generally quite low — and that, in the midst of an economically damaging Cold War which negatively affected many parts of society including the unemployment rate, not incidentally.
Generally during the post-war boom, everybody worked, everybody earned a paycheque, and almost everybody contributed to the economy. About late 1973 or early 1974 this began to profoundly change in the United States and in the Western nations generally.
Not to blame the American auto manufacturers for the Arab Oil Embargo, as the Big Three had been assured of low petroleum prices by foreign governments and several domestic administrations — hence the big, V-8 powered cars of the era and their consequently-low MPG figures were popular with both manufacturers and consumers.
But American consumers are a fickle lot. Once the gas price shot upwards in the aftermath of the Arab Oil embargo, Datsun (now Nissan), Toyota and Honda nameplates began selling as fast as the ships could deliver them from Japan.
If only the foreign vehicles were of inferior quality! But they’re not. If only they used more fuel than their U.S. equivalents. But they don’t. The corporate fuel economy average for foreign and domestic makes still favours imported vehicles. Not by the wide margin it once did — and not that GM and Ford haven’t scored impressive MPG victories in some categories, because they have.
But, to put it bluntly, many employed Americans prefer their foreign-built cars. (“And those millions of now-chronically-unemployed Americans will just have to get by.”)
It’s not just cars and trucks either. Historically, most home electronics sold in the U.S.A. including televisions, smartphones and computers were also ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ — but not these days.
Most of the clothing, plastics and extruded metals purchased in the U.S. are now manufactured in Asian and Southeast Asian nations, where countries like Indonesia rely heavily on textile exports to us and other Western nations.
Much of the American conversation these days revolves around the old austerity vs. stimulus debate which reporters and op/ed journalists are required by their respective organizations to cover.
Meanwhile the 80-ton elephant in the room is the trillions of manufacturing dollars which have transferred from the West to Asia since 1970 — and the manufacturing jobs that have gone with them.