Ford continues it new van strategy with more new vehicles ready to enter the market. The new Ford Transit Custom just made its global debut at the Birmingham (U.K.) Commercial Van Show this week and, as unlikely as it may seem on the surface, there could be some hints at what’s to come for future light-duty Ford pickup models.
Although the Transit Custom will not be offered for North American markets, it will include some of their latest strategies in strengthening and weight-saving Ford has to offer that could make it vehicles sold in the U.S. As much as 40-percent of the Transit Custom’s body is made from high-strength or ultra-high-strength steels, giving the van body more rigidity and weight savings to help with crash protection and fuel economy. And it should be noted, this new global vehicle (with either a 195-inch or 210-inch wheelbase) can carry loads in excess of 3000 pounds, when configured properly.
Likewise, the coming larger Transit van, the replacement for the aging E-Series body-on-frame work vans, have also used significant amounts of high-strength steel in the chassis and body to stiffen and strengthen the shell. Ford reports they’ve saved hundreds of pounds and improved fuel economy by more than 25-percent when compared with the out-going E-vans.
We’ve reported in the past Ford plans on using more aluminum and magnesium in future products to reduce weight, and there are more recent announcements that Ford is working with DOW Chemical to do more research regarding the developement and use of more carbon fiber materials to save vehicle weight, in some cases as much as 750 pounds per vehicle.
Carbon fiber materials have been used in airplanes, race cars, and the space shuttle for decades, due to it high-strength and low weight. Until recently, the costs have been prohibitive.
Much of this motivation for all the truck manufacturers have to do with the significant bumps in fuel economy requirements in both 2014 and 2016. Ford is uniquely setup to do well with their huge investment in smaller, lighter-weight EcoBoost engines that range in size from a 1.0L I-3 to a 3.5L V-6.
We’d expect all the big pickup makers to make strong investments in weight-saving strategies from here on out. And, in fact, we’ve just seen the 2013 Ram 1500 completely redesign their frame with plenty of high-strength steel, as well as liberal use of aluminum in big pieces like the hood and control, saving almost 100 pounds. And if the new SRT Viper is any indication (more powerful and weighs less), we can expect to see more and more door panel, roofs, beds, and other body parts of trucks to make more use of lighter-weight materials.