Remember a few years ago when the new “all-aluminum” F-150 was all the rage because of its game changing lightweight construction? Subsequently, the high-strength, military-grade aluminum body transitioned to the larger Super Duty models shortly after. However, the new 2021 Ford Bronco didn’t follow its kin down the tin foil rabbit hole, which is interesting in its own right.
Instead of the lighter and more expensive aluminum, the new Bronco makes copious use of good old cold steel. But, like, it’s not the same old simple steel we’ve come to know. That’s because key parts of the Bronco’s bones were made from a new kind of steel alloy from ArcelorMittal. The 2021 Bronco is actually the first passenger vehicle to use the new alloy, one which could have the potential to one day replace aluminum as the auto industry’s lightweight metal of choice.
According to The Drive, these Gen 3 steel alloys allow the material to be drawn out into thinner and lighter shapes without sacrificing strength. Automakers have long been chasing the holy grail of lighter and stronger materials, we’ve already seen the rise of carbon fiber, polymeric plastics, aluminum and magnesium make their way into production vehicles, but all those materials also carry increased costs compared to steel.
In partnership with Ford, ArcelorMittal was able to engineer a steel alloy that could be made up to 35 percent thinner while maintaining the same rigidity. Effectively, this could reduce the weight of major structural components by nearly a third. Lightness: a crucial detail to consider when off-roading.
In fact, the 2021 Ford Bronco is the fist vehicle in the world to use this revolutionary steel, according to ArcelorMittal.
Apparently though ArcelorMittal is still in the process of figuring out how to increase scale before the alloy can legitimately challenge the widespread use of aluminum. The company has employees embedded in the production facility of the 2021 Ford Bronco to help refine the process. There are extremely precise measures needed to both bake the steel and quench it in order to obtain the specific properties required for a mass-produced production car.
However, the new steel alloy will only represent about 5 percent of the total steel used throughout the 2021 Ford Bronco, but it’s estimated the ArcelorMittal alloy has helped shed some 150 pounds.
Are these new steels capable enough to become legitimate alternatives to aluminum? Ford was already bold enough to take a chance on aluminum construction for the F-150, it’s quite possible we could see these new alloys being applied not just across the F-Series family, but also the new Ranger and S650 Mustang programs.
Isn’t science great?
– By Michael Accardi