When auto engineers want to improve fuel economy, they shave spare ounces wherever they can—engines, seats, even nuts and bolts. But that nickel-and-dime approach only goes so far. For burly vehicles like pickups, they need to go for the body. That’s the thinking behind Ford’s new F-150, which trades a steel body for an aluminum one.
Aluminum is typically seen as a weak metal (thanks, soda cans), but Ford engineers use a particular alloy that performs as well as steel. When heat-treated, it actually gains strength. The underlying frame is still made from high-strength steel, so the truck is tough enough to haul and tow heavy loads—even though it’s about 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The design should do plenty to boost fuel economy, though we’ll have to wait for road tests later this year to be sure by how much.
Other Car News You Should Care About
By Jia You
According to a recent Car Insurance Comparison study, which compiled state-by-state data on auto-related fatalities, DUIs, and traffic-law violations, Louisiana has the worst drivers. Vermont has the best.
The three-cylinder engine in Nissan’s new ZEOD RC race car is small enough to fit inside a piece of carry-on luggage, yet it produces 400 horsepower. That’s about four times the power of a three-cylinder production car.
A new Audi City “virtual showroom” in Berlin doesn’t have any cars on display. Instead, shoppers browse models on a 23-foot-wide 3-D screen. Audi will add the feature to other urban dealerships that can’t keep vehicles on hand.
Data from research firm AlixPartners indicate that car-sharing programs, such as Zipcar and RelayRides, will displace 1.2 million new vehicle sales by 2020. For each shared car, 32 new cars go unsold.
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Popular Science.