Is the auto industry ready for the aluminum revolution? image

While the fact that a vehicle can have aluminum body has come to widespread attention ever since Ford announced that its best-selling F-150 truck has switched to the lightweight metal, the list is a little larger than you may guess.

On the list sit Audi models (the A8, which debuted back in 1994 was notable for being first mass-market car with an aluminium chassis), cars from Jaguar, Range Rover or even the luxury electric sedan Tesla Model S – but even so the actual number of aluminum-bodied mass-produced cars remains small – compared to the overall industry’s tally. And even though the F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the United States for 32 years and the top selling pickup for even more time (43 years), the automakers don’t seem to swarm and offer visions of aluminum intensive lineups. Even Ford has no immediate intentions to use the lightweight metal on upcoming generations of cars. We do know that General Motors could soon follow suite and use aluminum for its upcoming range of full-size pickups and that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles wants to produce the next-generation Jeep Wrangler on an aluminum structure.

The reason might be simple – aluminum is still very expensive (and if more automakers need it, the price likely is going to surge) and there are other ways to ensure the models can have a better fuel economy. For example, pickup trucks could eventually have plug-in hybrid powertrains – just like Bob Lutz’s Via Motors, which takes Chevy Silverados and transforms them into green gas guzzlers. And when it comes to cars, there are even easier ways to improve fuel economy, especially since they are anyways a lot slimmer than trucks. On the other hand, a lot of automakers incorporate aluminum body parts (hoods, fenders, bumpers, etc.) or play with different lightweight materials like carbon fiber (BMW’s “i” range is a main example).