When Ford first announced its 2015 F-150 pickup truck, it focused on the fact that the entire body of the truck would be made from aluminum instead of the common choice of steel. Our fleet fuel card company looked into the two metal materials and found some of the differences between aluminum and steel when it comes to building vehicles…
Steel is a heavier metal than aluminum – on average, it’s about 2.5 times denser. This means that because vehicles made out of aluminum are lighter, they have the potential for better fuel economy and a faster acceleration. (Fun fact: Because Ford built the F-150 out of aluminum, they were able to shave about 700 pounds from its weight.)
Prices for both steel and aluminum continuously change based on availability and supply and demand, but typically, aluminum is more costly than steel per pound.
Some car manufacturers are turning to aluminum because of its resistance to corrosion without needing a special paint or coating. When aluminum is exposed to the atmosphere, it forms a thin layer of aluminum oxide that acts as a protective shield. (This is also why airplanes are made from aluminum.) Steel, on the other hand, is only resistant to corrosion when treated.
When it comes down to sheer strength, steel is a stronger metal and is less likely to warp or bend under elements like force or heat. However, when you take weight into consideration, the point could be argued.
Because aluminum is lighter and softer, it’s more flexible than steel and is able to be bent into smaller and more intricate shapes. However, even though it’s more flexible, it’s said that aluminum parts are more difficult to weld and repair than steel parts.
In addition to the F-150, some other aluminum bodies include the Audi A8, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Jaguar XJ, Jaguar XE, and Tesla Model S. While Ford plans to continue using aluminum for its vehicles, other manufacturers aren’t quite sold on switching. Some believe that a lighter steel may be the future of vehicle materials and are holding off to see what the coming years hold.
*Photo courtesy of trucktrend.com