Operation of an Aluminum-Intensive Vehicle: Report on a Six-Year Project 2002-01-2066
In 1994, Ford produced a small demonstration fleet of Mercury Sables with aluminum bodies. Argonne National Laboratory obtained one of these vehicles on a lease so that Laboratory staff could observe the wear characteristics of the body under normal operating conditions. The vehicle was placed in the transportation pool, parked outdoors, and used by staff members for both local and longer trips. The vehicle performed normally, except for having particularly good acceleration because of its light weight and high-power SHO engine. No significant problems were encountered that related to the Al body or engine. No special driving protocols were observed, but a log was kept of trip lengths and fuel purchases. Fuel economy was observed to be improved, compared with that of a similar conventional steel-bodied vehicle that was available for one year of the lease period. The vehicle was tested on a chassis dynamometer to obtain emissions and fuel economy over the federal test cycle. The impacts of further mass reduction were also simulated. At the end of the lease, the body was in excellent condition, which we documented with a set of detailed photographs before the vehicle was returned to Ford. There were minor imperfections in the painted surface, probably resulting from the omission of an E-coat during the painting process. We also examined three similar conventional vehicles for comparison; these exhibited varying degrees of rust.