Lightness Is This Ford Fusion's Mantra

When it comes to modern automobiles, weight is the biggest performance inhibitor of everything in-between practical superminis all the way to the most track-focused supercars. Carbon fiber and other ultra-lighweight materials are utilized by a handful of manufacturers to counteract the downsides of extra weight, but most vehicles don't benefit from these due to high production costs.
Ford Lightweight Concept 4 photos
Photo: Ford
Ford Lightweight ConceptFord Lightweight ConceptFord Lightweight Concept
That's where the recently unveiled Ford Lightweight Concept comes to the stage. Showcasing the Blue Oval's research for upcoming lightweight advanced materials applications, this Fusion-based concept is stepping into Ariel Atom and other featherweight machines territory. Extended application of the military-grade aluminum alloy that helps the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup shed 700 pounds (317 kg) over the outgoing model helps the Lightweight Concept tip the scale at about 2,600 lbs (1,179 kg). To put that into perspective, a standard Ford Fusion sedan weighs close to 3,400 pounds (1,542 kg), while 2,600 lbs is pretty close to the Ford Fiesta supermini hatch.

To say the least, this dramatic diet translates into massive improvements in terms of fuel efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, straight line performance, stopping power and the so-very-important driving dynamics. But that's not the only trick hidden under the Lightweight Concept's skin. Ford engineers took a holistic approach to weight reduction by utilizing rims, seats and various cabin components made from carbon fiber, while the steel coil springs, crankshaft and stabilizer bars are hollowed out. The weight shedding continued with chemically-toughened laminated glass or plastic windows replacing the 35 percent heavier standard greenhouse.

“Our goal was to investigate how to design and build a mixed-materials, lightweight vehicle that could potentially be produced in high volume, while providing the same level of safety, durability and toughness as our vehicles on the road today,” said Matt Zaluzec, Ford technical leader of Global Materials and Manufacturing Research. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to lightweighting. The Lightweight Concept gives us the platform to continue to explore the right mix of materials and applications for future vehicles.”

So what's hiding under the hood of this featherweight prototype? Well, the standard engine was taken out and in went Ford's 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-pot mill with just 100 horsepower on tap. According to officials, the concept vehicle will theoretically return up to 45 mpg (6.3 liters/100 km) on the highway. All in all, the Ford Lightweight Concept is one of the most comprehensive blend of advanced materials we've seen crammed up in a single vehicle. Fingers crossed this kind of technology will become the standard for carmakers worldwide in the near future.

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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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