Photos by Michael Bettencourt and courtesy Ford

The electrification of mainstream vehicles is coming to Ford Motor Company, certainly before fuel cells, but right now the company is focused on refining the internal combustion engine and ‘lightweighting,’ as on their new for 2015 F-150, said one of Ford’s top sustainability executives recently.

That’s a slight variation on the ‘power of choice’ green theme they’ve espoused over the last couple of years, which highlighted a stepladder of efficient internal combustion (EcoBoost) engines, then increasing levels of electrification, from hybrid to plug-in hybrid on up to fully eco-righteous pure electric vehicle. But the costs of all this electrification are still higher than many consumers want to accept, Ford officials argued, during a wide-ranging tour of Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan research facilities and its Rouge truck plant. The tour highlighted some of the firm’s sustainability measures, all purposefully timed around Earth Day.

The focus on Ford’s EcoBoost engines as well as its lightweighting pickup initiatives came from an overall corporate goal back in 2006 to reduce carbon emissions, said Carrie Majeskie, Ford’s associate director of global sustainability integration. “The goal was to achieve (a new vehicle fleet average of) 54.5 mpg (4.3 L/100 km) by 2030,” she said. That plan was likely accelerated by the enactment of tougher fuel economy mandates in the U.S. that will require an NHTSA overall average of 54.5 mpg by model year 2025 vehicles.

This certainly does not mean we’ll all be forced into subcompact Mitsubishi Mirage-type three-cylinder econoboxes, thankfully, in 10 years. Those mileage requirements are flexible enough that many industry observers have predicted that the actual EPA sticker average for the new vehicle fleet will be closer to 40 mpg in 2025. Using the Canadian government’s similar five-cycle fuel efficiency measures introduced last fall, this new standard will lead to a fleet average closer to a 5.9 L/100 km.

Still, as anti-green as it sounds, Ford freely admits most of its profits come from large and relatively thirsty pickups and SUVs. But it’s in those high-volume trucks that it sees the most opportunities to reduce emissions in the short term, says Majeskie.

“The aluminum F-150 came out of our 2006 initiative, so we found the best way to get there (lower emissions and higher fuel economy) was through lighter weight, which also allows you to decrease the size of the powertrain.” With the new F-150 weighing anywhere from 275 to 315 kg less than before, every engine option instantly became more fuel efficient and more responsive, which is key in offering consumers a downsized 2.7L EcoBoost V6 option, a displacement that looks more like a mid-size sedan than full-size truck option. “We’ll see more aluminum going forward, maybe not to this extent, but it is coming.”

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