With the aluminum-bodied F-150 full-size pickup truck, Ford took a material previous used only in low-volume sports cars and luxury sedans and applied it to the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.
That requires a lot of aluminum.
It also gave Ford a further opportunity to lower the F-150’s overall carbon footprint by using recycled material. Ford says it recycles 20 million pounds of aluminum each month, using a “closed-loop” system that takes scrap material right from the floor of its Dearborn Stamping Plant in Michigan.
An F-150 SuperCrew cab and bed fitted with the hood, tailgate, and doors weighs 656 pounds, meaning Ford recycles enough aluminum for just over 30,000 trucks each month. The SuperCrew has a crew-cab configuration with four full-size doors, making it the largest cab available.
Ford notes that 30 to 40 percent of the metal in a typical aluminum coil is turned into scrap during the stamping process that produces body panels. This scrap material is sent back to suppliers in the same trucks that delivered the original coils and, eventually, comes back to the Dearborn Stamping Plant.
The plant supplies F-150 assembly lines in both Dearborn and Kansas City. Recycled aluminum eliminates 95 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with aluminum production, Ford claims. It requires significantly less energy to recycle scrap aluminum than to refine new stock — one reason, by the way, that recycling beverage cans actually does make a difference.
Use of recycled aluminum also helped the F-150 achieve the lowest lifecycle carbon footprint of any full-size truck for model years 2015 and 2016, in the estimation of research firm Automotive Science Group. The aluminum-bodied F-150 was introduced for the 2015 model year, and carried over into the 2016 model year largely unchanged.
Ford says it uses other recycled materials in the F-150 as well, including plastic bottles for seat fabric, and used clothing for sound insulation. Meanwhile, the redesigned 2017 Ford Super Duty series of heavy-duty trucks will feature aluminum bodies as well.
Jaguar Land Rover also uses recycled aluminum in the Jaguar XE small sedan as well. The XE is just now going on sale in the U.S., but had been available in Europe for some time. During that period, Jaguar claims to have incorporated 55,000 tons of scrap aluminum into the production process, enough for 200,000 XE body shells.