CALVERT, Ala. -- ArcelorMittal has a message for automakers scrambling to hit tougher fuel economy targets that come into effect in 2025: You don’t have to make trucks out of aluminum to do it.
The steel giant this week released the results of a design study in which the company was able to slash the weight of a pickup truck by 383 pounds -- figuring in the combined weight of a pickup’s cab, box, frame and closures -- by using advanced high-strength steels that are available today.
That weight reduction, combined with expected powertrain improvements, is enough to enable automakers to meet the U.S. government’s 2025 fuel efficiency goals, said Blake Zuidema, AM’s director of automotive product applications.
“It is possible to design all types of lightweight vehicles and to get them to the 2025 targets, and you can do it in steel,” Zuidema told reporters here, where AM is a partner with Nippon Steel in a finishing plant that will supply North American auto plants with high-strength steel.
The design study was conducted in part in response to the move by Ford Motor Co. to use aluminum for many of the body parts of its 2015 F-150 pickup. Ford’s decision was a big win for aluminum suppliers and a warning shot for steel producers concerned that the lighter metal will win an increasing role in other high-volume, mainstream vehicles.
In the design study, AM started with a truck from the 2009 model year, and redesigned its underbody using a variety of high-strength steel grades to cut out weight. The underbody of the base truck weighed 1,649 pounds. The redesigned underbody weighed 1,265 pounds, a reduction of 383 pounds, or 23 percent.
“Other materials can provide lower overall weight [than high-strength steel], but you don’t need that,” Zuidema said.
Ford has said the aluminum-body 2015 F-150 is about 700 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, although that includes weight reductions from the underbody as well as other components such as the seats and interior.
Steelmakers have done studies in the past that focused on weight reduction in passenger cars. This new study was one of the few that have been done on a full-size pickup.
“We had to show that even with the unique challenge of a pickup, you could hit those  targets” Zuidema said.