One Less Pound Equals Millions of Gallons of Fuel Saved
Collaboration Spotlight: Ford Motor Co. and Illinois Tool Works, Inc.
It’s no secret auto manufacturers have been, and continue to be, focused on building more efficient vehicles. And as fuel prices fluctuate and consumers demand increased performance, every little improvement counts.
Improved aerodynamics, more efficient engines, reduced drag tires; all are commonly discussed when people think of more efficient vehicles. Indeed, auto manufacturers continue to optimize these features to improve the performance of their vehicles.
But an idea often unnoticed by the general consumer? Lightweighting—reducing vehicle weight by changing the way cars are designed and the material used to make them. Quietly, it’s become a primary focus for auto manufacturers in the quest for more efficient vehicles.
That’s because the payoff is great—a 10% reduction in vehicle weight can result in a 6%-8% increase in fuel economy—so every system, every component throughout the vehicle is a candidate for weight savings. And switching from metal to a lighter weight plastic also brings with it a chance to simplify the component design and take cost out.
That’s why, when Ford Motor Co. challenged supplier, Illinois Tool Works, Inc., to take weight and cost out of an intake manifold system, ITW met with the team at DuPont’s Innovation Center in Troy, Mich., to brainstorm new ideas.
Connected to the air-intake manifold is a coolant crossover component, which is a hollow tubular part that bridges the engine, ensuring coolant circulates throughout. The ITW team was receiving the component made of brazed metal, which was heavy and expensive, because it could stand up to the long-term exposure to heat and long-life coolant.
Ford and ITW had previously looked at using high-performance plastics to replace this component, but due to the intense pressure involved in integrating the component into the manifold (called the overmolding process), plastic hollow components got damaged.
DuPont worked with ITW and Ford to adapt Zytel® HTN PPA plastic and modify the design to create a manifold coolant crossover that stands up to the engine environment and the manufacturing process. This new component reduced engine weight by 1 lb. per engine. It might not seem like a lot, but multiplied over millions of miles driven by millions of cars, one less pound in the engine equals millions of gallons of fuel saved.
Switching to plastic for the coolant crossover also eliminated several manufacturing steps—meaning the parts could be produced more efficiently.
The new component will debut on Ford’s 3.5L and 3.7L V6 engines this year, and is just one way DuPont is committed to collaborating with auto manufacturers to improve vehicle efficiency and performance at a lower cost.