Ford Innovates Steel That's Tougher Than Military Tanks and Railroad Tracks
A vehicle is only as tough as the metal it's built in. Today, modern steel remains the most dominant material used by automobile manufacturers. And thanks to technology, new steel innovations are giving them an edge from competitors like aluminum and plastic composites. The newest steel innovations are now allowing auto makers to produce safer and more fuel-efficient vehicles without sacrificing quality and cost-competitiveness.
One of the most promising ones we have today is a new type of steel that Ford has innovated for its Ford Escape model. It uses martensitic steel, which has the highest tensile strength level among multiphase steels. According to Ford, using this type of steel for its roof rail makes it far stronger than the steel used for army tanks, railroad tracks, and construction canes.
Martensitic steel is produced by rapidly strengthening and hardening austenite, a solid solution of iron with elements like carbon, manganese, silicon, chromium, molybdenum, boron, vanadium, and nickel. In Ford's case, it rolled up these ultra-strong, martensitic steel into 3D-rolled tubes that measured around seven feet long and less than two inches wide. These tubes ran up each A-pillar and also along the rooflines. Ford made the structure even stronger by solidifying the sub-frame with high-strength boron steel.
Better safety, less weight
Using Martenistic steel tubes has allowed Ford to add about half an inch of space inside the vehicles. And since it has thinner A-pillars, it increased driver visibility and reduced blind spots. Moreover, adding the tubes alone saves around ten pounds per vehicle.
Ford body structures representative Mike Kozak also added that the ultra-strong tubes form a "really essential suspension bridge" between the front and back of the 2020 Escape. This makes for "good load transference," allowing all tires to evenly share the load during acceleration. The result is better traction on the road.
According to Autonews.org, Ford is likely use this new material on their vehicles as they are redesigned.