Arguably the biggest road block to improving fuel economy isn’t engine technology, but weight. With lighter vehicles, automakers can use much smaller engines to push them around, plus there’s the added advantage of improved performance in all other areas.
While a lot of automakers have put the weight saving focus on structural components, using aluminum instead of steel for the chassis for instance, Ford has been looking at ways to cut the weight of internal components, like the plastics in the cabin. Engineered at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for Ford is a new MuCell technology, that cuts weight dramatically by infusing bubbles of nitrogen or carbon into conventional plastics.
According to Ford the MuCell plastics are 20 percent lighter, and while slightly weaker, it’s only to a negligible degree as these components are engineered to be 50 to 100 times stronger and more durable than they need be.
Ford says the first vehicles that will see the use of these plastics include the C-Max a Mondeo (including the next-gen Fusion), with MuCell plastics used for the engine covers on these models. Ford is then planning to roll out the technology much more widely by 2020 as it strives to reach its goal to cut weight in its vehicles from 200 to 750-lbs.