You’ve eaten an Aero bar, right? You know, the one that’s full of bubbles and is an ingenious way of selling you less chocolate but for the same price. Well, it looks like Ford are applying the same principles to their car materials in an effort to shed weight.
The problem of ever increasing weight is something that car manufacturers are slowly waking up to. Aluminium is increasingly replacing steel, carbon fibre is becoming more common, and now Ford have turned their attention to the plastics they use in their cars.
Now plastic might not seem the logical target for weight saving – after all, a piece of plastic isn’t that heavy is it? But there is a huge amount of plastic used in our cars, so if a way could be found to reduce the weight of that plastic without affecting its strength or durability then that should be considered A Good Thing.
Ford are using a new technology called MuCell. This involves injecting tiny bubbles of gas into the plastic as it is being moulded, which results in a microscopic honeycomb structure within the plastic. The result is a 20% weight saving that doesn’t affect the strength of the plastic and, as an added bonus, makes the plastic quicker and cheaper to produce.
Ford are taking it very easy to start with – the new plastic is used to build the engine cover in the all-new Focus – but they say they are committed to this technology as part of a drive to reduce their car weight by at least 100kg (and up to 300kg on its larger cars) by 2020.
The main drive behind all of this weight reduction is to reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, but don’t forget that less weight also means better performance and better handling. So this is a win-win scenario for both the ecomentalists and hot hatch fans.