High fuel prices 10 years ago were a big reason for the surge in sales of lightweight materials and components for utility vehicles. Although fuel prices have dropped significantly since then, lightweight alternatives to steel are still popular and have found a solid niche within the market.
“While lightweight components are often associated with fuel reductions and are a significant contributor to advances in reducing fuel burned, they have other equally important uses,” said George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (www.ntea.com). “They can be used to increase discretionary payload on an existing chassis, help keep a truck under bridge law restrictions, extend effective body life and help keep medium-duty trucks under the federal excise tax (FET) weight ranges.”
For decades, aluminum has been the popular, albeit more expensive, lightweight option to steel, both inside and outside vehicles. Its weight advantage can total up to 50 percent savings compared with steel, according to F3 MFG Inc. (http://f3mfg.com), a Waterville, Maine-based upfitter specializing in aluminum bodies.
Aluminum bodies stand up well in certain applications, and aluminum’s corrosion-resistance property can make it a viable, maintenance-free replacement for steel.