Truck Wars: Manufacturers Wage Fuel-Economy Battle

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By John Cappa
Photography courtesy of the manufacturers

The top pickup truck manufacturers have been competing for pickup supremacy for decades, and everyone has a favorite. Today that battle is a rock-throwing, eye-gouging, punch fest that rivals any ugly schoolyard brawl. All manufacturers have fortified their trucks with higher horsepower ratings and torque numbers, increased cargo and towing capacity, and more all-out interior comfort and amenities than ever. However, one arena in which the battle has not typically raged so passionately is fuel economy — until recently.

Thanks to corporate average fuel economy requirements, automakers need to meet a government-mandated combined fleet fuel economy average of 35.5 mpg by 2020 (39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for trucks) for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 pounds or less. That is quite a jump from the current mandated average of 25 mpg (27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 mpg for trucks). For more information about CAFE requirements, click here.

With truck sales on the rise, the half-ton segment can't escape fuel-efficiency improvements. Had the evolution of fuel-economy technology not been government mandated and taken place over several years, we would likely see more similar features and technology across the brands. Because of this "encouraged" evolution, all three major manufacturers have attacked the mileage problem from different angles, and all three have come up unique and viable solutions. Which one is best, which of the three fuel-economy plays will the other two manufacturers adopt first, and which will be the leader in fuel economy, power and capability by the end of the decade is anyone's guess, but each of the strategies have been well considered.

We're laying them all out for your consideration:


Ford Truck

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The Blue Oval unveiled out its fuel-economy hand at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It's a play based on simple common sense: Less mass moved equals improved mileage. It's said that you can increase fuel economy by 1 percent for every 100 pounds that you remove from a vehicle. Thanks in part to a 94 percent aluminum body and new high-strength lightweight steel frame, the 2015 Ford F-150 will be up to 700 pounds lighter than its 2014 steel F-150 counterpart.

But what Ford isn't saying is that its current steel-bodied trucks are more than 300 pounds heavier than comparable half-ton trucks from GM and Ram in some cases. Ford plans to add more weight to its 2015 trucks in the form of optional content such as a 360-degree camera, high-power 110-volt/400-watt outlets, the BoxLink cargo management system, blind spot warning system with cross-traffic alert and more. So the actual weight savings of the new aluminum pickup will depend on how the truck is outfitted.

Sticking with the less-is-more theme, Ford will introduce the turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine into the 2015 F-150. This will include the lower (and presumably the lightest) XL trim level. The engine features a lightweight compacted graphite iron block, aluminum heads and auto stop-start to improve city fuel economy. It's believed that the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 will produce in the neighborhood of 280 horsepower and 350 pounds-feet of torque. Ford and GM are working together to develop a 10-speed transmission, but it likely won't be available until later in the model year. For 2015 the 2.7-liter will be backed by a six-speed automatic; however, when and if the 10-speed comes to fruition it could be a significant game changer for Ford.

Adding a turbo to a smallish engine (for a full-size truck) is said to help deliver power and torque consistent with larger engine displacements while achieving up to 20 percent better fuel efficiency. This seems to hold true when unloaded; however, many owners of 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost-equipped F-150s have reported mpg numbers in the single digits when towing heavier loads.

We'll have to wait and see if this rings true with the new smaller engine. As with the rest of the fuel sippers here, we expect the 2.7-liter EcoBoost F-150 to have a slightly lower tow rating and cargo capacity than the 3.5-liter EcoBoost and traditional 5.0-liter V-8 version of the truck. Ford has not yet released maximum tow rating, horsepower, torque or mpg numbers for the 2.7-liter EcoBoost F-150. The currently available 2014 steel-bodied, naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6 F-150 pumps out 302 horsepower and 278 pounds-feet of torque and offers 23 highway mpg and a tow rating of up to 6,700 pounds. When the dust settles we speculate that the 2.7-liter turbo-boosted lightweight aluminum-bodied truck will have a tow rating of 5,000-7,500 pounds and muster mileage in the high 20s. Current base pricing on the 2014 steel-bodied F-150 is $25,640 (all prices include destination). No word on 2015 F-150 pricing or what it will cost to check the box for the 2.7-liter EcoBoost.


General Motors

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The Bow-Tie brand and GMC placed bets on the EcoTec3 engines for 2014. For 2015 we assume GM will likely offer the same trio of engines and be the only half-ton truckmaker with two available V-8s. The fuel miser of the EcoTec3 bunch is the 285-hp 4.3-liter V-6 with 305 pounds-feet of torque. It provides an impressive 24 mpg on the highway. Matching the 4.3-liter to the rumored 10-speed transmission could certainly bring GM closer to, if not to, the head of the fuel-efficiency pack.

Like all of the EcoTec3 engines, the 4.3-liter features direct fuel injection, active fuel management (cylinder deactivation) and continuously variable valve timing. This combination is not found in any other half-ton truck. The 4.3-liter block and heads are made from aluminum for weight savings. A compact overhead-valve design helps reduce weight as well. Unlike GM's competitors, this fuel-efficient engine is standard on most models. The cost savings could pay for quite a bit of fuel. Base model 2014 Chevrolet and GMC trucks are priced at $26,670 and $27,170 respectively.

As with all of the half-ton fuel-economy contenders, the smaller GM engine supplies lower power numbers and decreased capability. The 4.3-liter-powered Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra can tow up to 7,600 pounds, which is significantly less than the 12,000-pound rating of a max-tow-equipped 5.3-liter V-8 Silverado/Sierra.


Ram Truck

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Ram put its fuel-sipping efforts into an advanced 240-hp 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 with 420 pounds-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. In the past, diesel engines have been praised for providing up to 30 percent better fuel economy than a comparable gas engine. More recently, the increased cost of diesel fuel over traditional gas and the need for expensive after-treatment systems have been enough to dissuade other half-ton truck manufacturers from taking the same route. Despite the drawbacks, Ram offers the only half-ton diesel truck. The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel-powered Ram 1500 musters a recently EPA-certified 28 mpg on the highway, making it the current fuel-economy king among non-Ram competitors by 4 mpg in the half-ton segment. No word on what Ram has in store for 2015.

The extra efficiency of the 3.0-liter Ram isn't without compromise. Tow capacity has been diminished slightly from a max of 10,450 pounds to 9,200 pounds for a properly equipped EcoDiesel truck. Checking the EcoDiesel option will set you back $2,850 more than a Hemi V-8-powered truck or $4,500 more than the Pentastar V-6 with an eight-speed transmission. The base-model 2014 Ram 1500 Tradesman comes in at $24,940. Also note that the 2014 Ram 1500 with the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and eight-speed transmission is the current mileage king at 25 mpg on highway. So, as with GM, you don't have to pay for a premium engine to get good fuel economy.


The Imports

Even though the Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra are technically considered imports, all three are built in the U.S., and all three have staked their claim in the pickup truck schoolyard.

While Honda's 2014 Ridgeline generally isn't considered a full-size half-ton pickup in most truck circles, it does offer a fascinating combination of capability, convenience, truck/car features and fuel economy that interests traditional and nontraditional truck buyers alike. The 3.5-liter V-6 punching out 250 hp and 247 pounds-feet of torque is the only available engine in the Ridgeline. The 2014 model year is said to be the last iteration until a full redesign, which will surface in late 2015 as a 2016 model. No word on engine or other specs, just an outlined sketch has been released (click here to view).

For now, the Ridgeline has a max tow capacity of 5,000 pounds, and the base-model RT starts at $30,405. Interestingly, even though the Ridgeline's 21 mpg highway is not currently top tier, the frameless unit body could be a hint at the future of what half-ton trucks will become, not only in an effort to reduce weight for more fuel efficiency, but to decrease production costs as well.

The 18 mpg highway of the 2014 Nissan Titan may not make many waves in the ocean of half-ton trucks, but the recent news of an optional 5.0-liter Cummins diesel did get a lot of attention. The base-model Titan, priced at $30,365, comes as a King Cab (no regular cab available). The standard 5.6-liter gas V-8 spits out 317 hp and 385 pounds-feet of torque, which provide a max tow capacity of 9,500 pounds. The V-8 Cummins-powered Titan should debut in 2015 or 2016. It's believed that the 5.0-liter Cummins engine will produce more than 300 hp and somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 pounds-feet of torque.

Considering the engine size and potential output, we suspect that the Cummins Titan could see up to 27 mpg based on our calculations. This is a huge power play for Nissan, but it could be an expensive one. Some industry people believe that checking the 5.0-liter Cummins option box could cost as much as $10,000. The high price tag seems possible when you consider that the Cummins version of the Titan will likely require stouter diesel-specific components including a transmission, transfer case, driveshafts, axles and possibly suspension. It will also require some type of pricey exhaust after-treatment system. The unfortunate reality for Nissan is that if it could sell more Titans, pricing could be more reasonable.

For 2014, a base-model 4.0-liter V-6 Toyota Tundra will set you back $27,195. At 20 mpg highway, the all-aluminum engine generating 270 hp and 278 pounds-feet of torque does not compete aggressively in the fuel-efficiency slug fest. Like GM, Toyota offers the Tundra with two optional V-8 engines. The larger of the two V-8 engines (5.7-liter) supplies up to a 10,500-pound max tow capacity; however, the standard 4.0-liter V-6 is rated at a much lower 4,500-pound max tow capacity. Rumor has it that for 2016, Toyota will introduce the same 5.0-liter Cummins engine as Nissan. No word on output numbers, but as with Nissan, considering the engine size and power potential, the truck could muster up to 27 mpg based on our unscientific calculations.




Where Are We Headed?

Unfortunately, even though the current half-ton mileage king is a diesel, it's been noted by some that the feds have not fully sided with diesel-powered trucks. The big push seems to be (as determined by governmental subsidies) for electric power plants or fuel cells, regardless of the fact that the technology and consumer demand just isn't there yet.

Fuel-economy successes will certainly be followed by all of the manufacturers. Aerodynamics have become increasingly important for the half-ton-truck segment. The trucks seem to be getting lower in an effort to decrease wind resistance. From an outside-the-industry perspective, all of the trucks are beginning to take on a similar silhouette; you can't deny what works in the wind tunnel. It's likely they can only look so different and still be as efficient as they need to be.

In the future we fully expect to see segmentwide lighter curb weights, stop-start technology, grille shutters, self-lowering suspensions, lighter wheels and tires, and transmissions with eight or more speeds among other things. Ford's move to an aluminum body has been considered a risk by some industry people, but the weight savings is indisputable. It's likely that both GM and Ram are paying close attention to the success or failure of that decision. The only certainty is that all truck manufacturers will continue to fight to squeeze every 10th of an mpg out of their next full-size pickup.




@ Mark Williams

There's much debate going on about the load capacity of the Ram EcoDiesel as official numbers haven't been published yet. Load capacity would be a useful and possibly crucial addition to your chart above for all manufacturers. Any chance of updating that chart with the addition of load capacity figures?

Based on the discussion above and the current CAFE rules, it would almost certainly be easier for the manufacturers to continue making the trucks bigger and heavier--and get them OVER that 8500# GVWR than to lighten them. Then come back and build a new generation of smaller trucks--much smaller trucks--to take on that under-8500# rating. But I already know what would happen there.

For one, that would drive the F-150/Silverado/Ram line all up into the medium-duty range and while that wouldn't necessarily have much effect on demand, it would change licensing requirements--forcing many current drivers to get a CDL just to own one. While I think this would be a good idea (drivers in general need more and better road manners) it would meet with a lot of resistance by the general pickup truck-driving populace.

Meanwhile, the smaller trucks brought down to true mid-size proportions would see a surge of sales outweighing the current crop of full-size as even the most hard-core full-size owner would realize they simply don't need something that big and heavy if they're not actually using its medium-duty capabilities.

All three brands have recognized they need to reduce weight and improve power on smaller, less thirsty engines. Ford refuses to make their trucks smaller for now and have turned to using "exotic materials" to remove weight to make it easier on those smaller engines. GM has chosen to go back to a two-platform basis in the hopes that their smaller truck will take some of the pressure off, but if they're to average 30mpg with a combination of full size and mid size, that midsize needs to go as far over that 30 as the full size stays under that 30. This means they either need to go smaller yet or rely heavily on 4-cyl engines--which will kill performance and capabilities in a truck as large as the new crop of C&C twins. Ram? Diesel will help, but again that diesel will need to go as far over the 30mpg goal as their gassers remain under. They have an advantage with the Jeep brand somewhat in that the Wrangler qualifies as a truck, but its current gas mileage rating isn't that much better than the Rams and pushes that two-ton curb weight itself.

However we look at it, in order to reach the new CAFE ratings we're going to see some significant changes in trucks overall. For consumer use they're almost guaranteed to get smaller and lighter with time simply because more size means more weight, no matter what materials you use to build it. The newest Boeing Dreamliner may be a lightweight compared to the 757/767, but it still weigh hundreds of tons and needs incredible power to get it airborne. It's also designed to carry commercial loads numbering in multiple hundreds of passengers or some tens of tons of cargo. Short-haul operations don't need that capacity and use much smaller aircraft that still get the basic task done at far lower cost.

Conclusion: the age of the Road Whale™ is coming to an end. Smaller will come back not necessarily because it's popular, but simply because larger is not economically feasible.

@Roadwhale--Exotic materials???? Are you talking about aluminum alloy??? Are you kidding!

Alloy has been in use on American cars since the 1950s. Nothing exotic about. Carbon fibre and composites like fibreglass have been on American cars since the 1950s. For the same reasons as today--steel in its many forms is versatile and durable, but it is not the perfect choice for every application.

Aluminum and other alloys represent a conventional approach to engineering these vehicles. Dude where have you been?

Where do you guys get this stuff? Your columnist today fails to recognize that the Big 3 have been listening to truck buyers FOR DECADES and they know exactly what floats the boat (and tows the trailer).

The Ridgeline may be impressing your friends at EPA, but buyers have different story to tell. IT DOES NOT SELL. They have not had a good year selling Ridgelines since 2009 or so.

The public loves big powerful trucks and SUVs. Period.

Over time, the truck buying public has been leaning toward half ton trucks that have HD characteristics. The multigear transmissions and sophisticated engine technology along with some slick weight reduction science have succeeded in offering buyers a perfect compromise. Not to big, not too small.

Cut the B.S. prediction nonsense. Not only will the new F150 not hit 27 highway, it won't even be close.

@mileage man
Why wouldn't it even get close to 27? Improved aerodynamics with grille shutters should improve the 23 to 24 or 25 on it's own. The new engine ought to push it to 26. The use of lighter materials should give it one or two more. 27 seems like the most likely highway number to me. Ford said it should be "close to 30 mpg". It is unlikely it will be any less than 26. It COULD be 28 or 29 but that would surprise me without the 10 speed.

the 10 speed isnt going to help mileage, the thing would be lugging so bad in top gear it would probrobly rarely be there. The 8 speed in the ram actually has the same top gear ratio as the 6 speeds in ford and gm now. Keep the trucks simple, get rid of all the fancy heavy bull and big dumb 2o" wheels.

It is unlikely the Canyon / Colorado will get more than 25 (maybe 26) without the diesel, there is no way the F150 will do so. Weight losses will have a very small effect on highway mileage. Ram already has grille shutters and they can eek out 25 (and never in real life). Ford isn't going past that and I have no idea how anyone could possibly think so. Turbos are not magical fuel saving devices, they are magical power making and fuel consuming devices.

The current Ford Explorer which is 4500 lbs and MUCH more aerodynamic than any F150 is going to be is rated 28 highway in an I4 with FWD setup (which nobody gets anywhere near). If you think an F150 is going to get equivalent mileage to a much smaller crossover I'd say you're drinking way too much ford kool aid. The Explorer with the V6 is rated 17/24. Look at *that* as what the F150 might be able to hit.

Also, as an aside, I really wish the ridiculous EPA fuel economy test would be changed. Ford's ecoboost powered vehicles are made only to game EPA tests. They are very lousy on mileage in the real world (which one would expect from turbo'd engines). The EPA tests should reflect real world driving, not be so artificial that engines and vehicles that do poorly in real world driving do very well on the EPA tests.

The most interesting truck coming out from a FE point of view is the diesel Colorado/Canyon. If done properly that truck should get 27/28 real world combined mileage. I have no faith in GM and I would bet my money that it won't hardly exceed a Ram 1500 with ecodiesel mileage. We will see in 2 years.

I'm with RoadWhale on this. If you look at the dimensions of pickups from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, then compare them to today's trucks. The full size light duty has grown into the medium duty segment. The 150 and 250 are essentially the same size and configuration but with a different chassis. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying these pickup shouldn't exist. I just wish the F150 would have stayed the same size. Sales should have jumped between the 150 category to the 250 level. Then there would still be a right sized truck for everyone on the market. Ford and Ram's insistence on a one size fits all approach turns me off. And it's ashamed that Chevy is the only American coming back to the mid-size market. If they weren't releasing a new Colorado, I'd say that now would be the perfect time for a resurrected El Camino based off an extended version of the Camaro platform. With the Colorado coming they are not likely to enter the compact truck segment.

@Road Whale: you can talk all you want about them being bigger, the current trucks aren't that much bigger in the same configuration as 20 years ago.

Surprised Ram isn't offering the Ecodiesel in a 4x2 shortbed. I see according to the build site 3.21 gears are available. The average comes in at 28 mpg for 4x2, and with 3 gear sets average would be the one in the middle, 3.55. Using 3.21s and a 245/70 tire, a regular cab shortbed should have no issue hitting 30 mpg. Considering 3.55 geared crewcab 4x4 s that have bigger tires that take more energy to turn can and do get 28 mph on a highway envirement.

Meanwhile...................Ram is the MPG king.




"But what Ford isn't saying is that its current steel-bodied trucks are more than 300 pounds heavier than comparable half-ton trucks from GM and Ram in some cases. "

This is the most disturbing part about the whole write up. A Ford is a Ford. A Ram (or Dodge Ram) is a Ram for the Dodge faithful. Even a Toyota is a Toyota and a Nissan is a Nissan. Yet GM is still exactly what? Is it a GM/GMC? Or is it a Chevrolet? It may not sound like a big deal in type, but I'm telling you, it's becoming a massive issue in the real world. I see it daily.

The Bow-Tie brand and GMC placed bets on the EcoTec3 engines for 2014.

- LOL @ Mark. As if they're separate entities. @FordSucks1, I actually agree with you. WTF is a Bow-Tie "Brand".??? Is GovtMotors saying Chevrolet isn't the real deal? Sure sounds like it. GovtMoCo/GMC is a piss poor excuse for a so called American company. Chevrolet was awesome way back when. GM/GMC is like a turd that won't go down the drain when you flush.

@Beebe, please stick to what you know.

Weight reduction plays a very small, almost zero, part in Highway FE.

City, big time. Highway, no. Weight reduction is a huge factor in getting better City mileage, but not highway.

Highway mileage on level ground at speeds over 55-60 mph is determined almost exclusively by aero considerations, gear ratio's and/or overdrive, and engine displacement.

As vehicle speed increases aero, gear and engine become huge factors.

Never make assumptions papajim, you know where that takes you.

No, I wasn't talking about the aluminum alloys, but rather the many different grades of high-strength steel that Ford clearly delineates in their colorized graphics of the truck's frame and body. The ladder frame alone uses at least four different grades of steel, as does GM's. These different metals used in different places means that the cost of production continues to rise--whether it's fully boxed or c-channel. But they're having to use these different steels for hardness and rigidity because the new trucks have gone far beyond their 'rated' capacities in so many ways.
And yes, composite material like fiberglass has been used too, but carbon fiber is a new and currently VERY expensive material--though I will acknowledge that the cost is coming down. At the same time, carbon fiber currently makes up the bodywork and interior of only the lightest, most expensive cars with very limited exception as interior trim on some luxury cars that are still priced out of the range of the average American driver.

People who drive an F150 with the Ecobooze should all get a dui. LMAO lolololololololololololololololol

Stick to what I know? I know you guys are wrong. If you think the 2.7 isn't going to be 26 or better you are just wrong. Believe it or not weight reduction does play a role in highway mpg. It isn't as significant as city but it definitely plays a role. How would the 2.7 not be better than ram's pentastar? It will weigh significantly less, newer design, probably be at least as aerodynamic, much smaller engine, and near the same top gear ratio as someone stated above. Cruising at highway speeds you are not going to be in the turbo so it makes sense that it would get great gas mileage when you've got a 2.7 liter engine. Won't be good when towing but that's another story and not what this engine is for. You think ford would say it will be close to 30 mpg and then come out with it rated 24 or 25?????? You think they would do that??? come on.....I guess we'll see but this is an easy one. Every source i've seen estimates at least 26 and some say 28 or 29.

@Bebee: Grill shutters alone aren't going to be enough; that big, flat nose alone is a brick wall being shoved through the air; new trucks will need new shapes to help guide that air around the body rather than just brute-forcing it like a bulldozer.

You want better economy? You need three things: An efficient engine; lighter weight; streamlining. We knew this nearly 100 years ago when many of our railroads streamlined their locomotives to get more speed out of them before WWII. They stopped only because the cladding they used to streamline those locomotives used steel needed elsewhere; we don't have that problem today. What we have today are "he-man boys" trying to look bigger and tougher for little more than status when a sexy shape is what used to sell the more popular cars.

Who doesn't remember the old '60s and '70s Corvettes, whose swoopy fender lines were so reminiscent of a woman's shapely curves? For their day they were extremely aerodynamic and among the fastest cars available. Sure, they didn't carry any load other than the driver, but it did make a difference.
What about the much more recent '90s series Camaros and Firebirds? Smooth curves that made them slip through the air so easily--beating the Mustangs in Trans-AM races when the swapped out of their slab-sided previous generation. A V6 Camaro would compete well on the street with its base V8 Mustang competitor while offering more than 25% better gas mileage. I regularly exceeded 32 mpg with a Camaro that was supposedly rated at a mere 27 while onlookers swore I had to have a 'sleeper' V8 under the hood. Aerodynamics do make a difference.

haha wow i really need to stop posting on What a waste of my time. I should have realized this before. What's the point? I'm going to resist the urge from now on.

There is no way the little EcoBust is going to hit 27 MPGs guys. Come on. Get serious. Mark said 1 percent for each 100 lbs. shed. That's only 7 percent improvement from the weight they are shedding. Then you've got the documented and proven fact that smaller engines have to work harder to move a large vehicle and therefore use more fuel, not less, per liter of displacement. There is no way Ford can pick up SEVERAL miles per gallon with the technology they have now. They will have to go diesel or hybrid to beat Ram.

And the Pentastar in the ram isn't old technology. It debuted just 3 years ago and unlike the GM and Ford junk, it's been on Ward's Ten Best Engines list almost the entire time it's been in production.

If you're going to keep up with Chrysler innovation, you've got your work cut out for you. Do some reading over at sometime. It'll blow you away how much stuff Chrysler has pioneered in the market over the last 50 years.

The RAM 2500 with a 6.7 Cummins can't get better then 17-18 mpg and the RAM 1500 3.0 EcoDiesel gets 28 mpg.

Not sure how is a 5.0 Cummins suposed to get 27 mpg in the Titan or a Tundra. Would say it will get something in the 22 mpg range at best.

The 2008 VW Touareg was rated 20 mpg with a 5.0 TDI engine.

I'm having trouble sending this blog, so it might appear a couple of times, sorry.

I do think full size pickups will become less prevalent.

The cost of aluminium full size 1/2 ton pickups will force customers into alternative vehicles. The business man will buy more of the Euro style vans. The 3 litre diesel's offer acceptable performance and superior FE.

The recreational buyer will move towards medium SUVs, CUVs,vans and pickups. I know someone will use towing as an argument. But even the Grand Cherokee will tow 7 700lbs. This is far more than most will ever use a vehicle for towing.

GM has hedged itself with the Colorado/Canyon, because it realises the additional cost of an aluminium 1/2 ton pickup will make them less attractive.

Toyota and Nissan will have 'sort of' half ton pickups that will be a Class 3 truck. I do think that Toyota and Nissan will rely on the Frontier/Tacoma to take on the Big 2 and Fiat full size 1/2 ton pickup.

V8s are slowly going the way of the dodo.

There's one significant issue I have about him calculating the difference between the diesel and the V8 Fiat Ram. That is the additional tax levied against a vehicle that doesn't meet CAFE. Even the Chev SS is reportedly 'taxed' over $1 500 because it misses the CAFE mandated FE target.

How much will a large V8 pickup be charged? More than a couple of grand? This also makes diesel cheaper.

EVs and Hybrids will always be more expensive than diesel unless the government keeps up the subsidies. But when the subsidies go how much will they cost?

Diesel is the future. Like I've stated for years.

@papa jim
The materials aren't exotic like you expressed, but the manufacturing techniques are.

Look at Henry Ford. The vehicle he produced wasn't exotic, but the processes involved were.

Mass production made the T Model cheaper.

The difference this time is both the material and processes are different. These 'exotic' trucks will cost more than a current pickup that's had nearly one hundred years of fine tuning mass production.

Mass production of aluminium pickups will make the cost of mass producing with aluminium cheaper, but it will still be more expensive than steel.

Look at the cost difference between two step ladders, one aluminium and the other steel. In Australia a 6' step aluminium step ladder is $69 and a steel on is $39.

RoadWhale: you might want to listen to Papa, all things being equal as far a engine and weight goes, it is aerodynamics that gets you hyw mpg, a lot more than weight savings. Here is an example for you, my Dodge Charger with a Hemi AWD gets 28 mpg hyw, and the Ram Hemi gets ? 22 maybe in reg cab 4x4? both weigh about the same 4400lbs, the Ram does weigh a little more, but it is aerodynamics that make the biggest difference on the hyw, and any speed over 40 mph!

I have to support Road Whale and Beebe on the issue regarding a vehicle drag co-efficiency.

Irrespective of speed drag will come into play. The effect of drag is generally speaking logarithmic.

This means the effect will increase in a non linear fashion.

There is no 'magic' number for drag. Weight plays a role in FE also irrespective of speed. In a theoretical environment with no inclines affected by gravity (ie space outside of the gravitional effects of any star system/galaxy) weight must be considered. But it will still take energy to accelerate a body with or without gravity.

To accelerate a vehicle requires energy. To maintain speed up and incline is equal to accelerating a vehicle. This can be determined mathematically.

Pickup's are bricks.

Papa Jim, here's an experiment to try. Grab a sheet of plywood and tell me the effects of carrying it in a breeze in comparison to carrying the sheet indoors.

Try and move that sheet of ply in a 25mph wind.

@Big Al, @Roadwhale

Big Al, diesel has been around for a VERY long time--the "future" you say?

Carbon fibre has been around since the 1960s. Just another kind of laminate.

To each of you, a thorough reading of my other comment shows that I nailed it.

Aluminum is NOT new to the auto industry, nor it is exotic. Ford and GM were using alloys back in the 1950s/60s.

Ditto for laminates.

My comment mentioned that steel is a durable and versatile solution to many of the engineering problems that designers encounter.

@ Big Al, whose comments are you reading?

"'s an experiment to try. Grab a sheet of plywood and tell me the effects of carrying it in a breeze in comparison to carrying the sheet indoors.

Try and move that sheet of ply in a 25mph wind."

My reply to Beebe stated the obvious to anyone who's examined these issues re: FE


Two identical F150 trucks are each pulling an identical trailer on level ground? Hint: One trailer weighs 2000 lbs more than the other.

Which rig gets better fuel economy?

@papa jim
Yes, gasoline has been around a lot longer than diesel. In the past on PUTC I've expressed my views on diesel in the US and it appears I may have been correct.

I do know there are many in the US who don't understand the benefits of diesel and will be 'anti-diesel'. But the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

Diesel tech has only really started to improve since the 70s. This funnily enough coincides with the economic situation of many countries after WWII.

Prior to that the US, Australia, UK, Germans, etc relied on gasoline and diesel was used for heavy transport.

Even in the 50s the US had tractor trailer trucks with gasoline engines. Prior to that diesel locomotives started out in the 30s.

As time has passed diesel has been developed for smaller and smaller vehicles.

The US Big 3 and Japanese were the biggest promoters of gasoline. Regulation, protection and a powerful US market allowed for gasoline to be prevalent.

The US market is still large, but comparatively speaking it doesn't represent 25% of what it used to globally.

Diesel has been taken up by everyone else. Australia still has a gasoline biased system and yet diesel is taking off. Our system isn't as biased as the US as we pay the same for the diesel fuel as you do.

Diesel's biggest enemy is the regulatory controls holding it back in the US not the consumer.

@papa jim
The Ram with the 3 litre VM will get the better FE.

There's much more to FE than drag. Gearing, frictional losses, engine design, driving style, etc.

The one that get's the getter FE will have the better of all of the above I've stated.

@Big Al

German tanks in WW2 were using diesel. American tanks, i.e., the Sherman tank were burning leaded gasoline.

German tanks caught fire now and then. Sherman tanks went off like a bundle of dynamite because gas can be very explosive compared to diesel.

Diesel goes back to the 1890s. Ditto gas.

Utilization is key. The US will move to diesel as soon as the economics of diesel translate to passenger cars and light trucks. At present diesel is primarily for heavy equipment and big trucks.

@papa jim
Diesel you'd better read on on how partial compression engines, not true diesel were used and when.

I'm not going to get into a bull$hit debate with you on a subject you apparently have little knowledge of.

@big al

you don't need to worry about it. I'm not trying to persuade you. I never mentioned aerodynamic drag.

Beebe mentioned that reducing the weight of a truck would change its highway FE. I could not let that pass.

You are the one who went off on diesel. It is old technology that is continuing to be updated. Just as with gasoline engines.

This is a story where the writer mentioned some things that were odd, including his ridiculous notion that EPA started the car companies on the road to better FE.

In fact, this process began right after WW2 when the engine technology for cars starting paying greater attention to VE, volumetric efficiency. Aircraft engines used it and it was expanded to cars--about 25 years before the EPA was founded. It created a whole new generation of engines way before Washington tried to mandate such things.


Your sources are wrong. Period. Weight reduction plays very little role in highway mpg, moreso in the ridicuous EPA tests than real highway driving, but still very little. A smaller engine does not automatically = more fuel economy. That is only really going to matter if the smaller size results in faster warming, increased throttling losses, and increase air/fuel mixing at low rpms. Turbocharged engines run a lower compression ratios which is a loss of efficiency right there. To think that a small turbo'd engine will automatically return 4+ mpgs is absurd. And yes, I absolutely believe Ford would lie. Ford has been lying about its towing ratings for years. They just got caught lying about cmax mileage. They still refuse to admit there is a problem with the ecoboost intercooler. Ford is not the paragon of honesty.

The manufacture that incorporates a lighter truck (aluminum body) with a small diesel and a 8,9 or ten speed tranny will have a winning ticket in the "fuel mileage war".

@mileage man - engine builders were forced to use lower compression ratios because timing could not be easily adjusted nor could fuel ratio's be adjusted to avoid detonation (pre-ignition).
Today we have high compression turbo engines that avoid detonation primarily through the use of Direct Injection. Everyone uses variable valve timing technology and air/fuel ratio's can be adjusted as well.

Preliminary testing in Europe shows that DI Turbo engines produce just as much if not more fine particulate than diesel engines. If those kind of test results are confirmed with further testing it will be a disaster for Ford's Ecoboost program. That would mean DPF and Urea injection for the Ecoboost line.

It has been documented (also in Europe) that TTDI engines "test" better than normally aspirated engines. Another reason why small TTDI engines are used is because many countries tax based on engine size. Ford saves money and maximizes profit by homogenizing R&D and production.

Weight reduction tends to yield better results with stop/go driving. The example of 2 identical trucks pulling trailers at the same speed but the one 2k heavier Will burn more fuel is sound BUT that is where a huge weight reduction will help.
If one reduces the weight i.e. Ford -700lb. but GCWR stay the same, that does stand to improve mpg overall.

We are seeing what happens when different companies are given latitude in coming up with the best solution to tightening mpg standards.
- Ford is betting on weight reduction and TTDI engines.
- Ram is being influenced by the European reliance on diesels and small engines but they know that Americans like big V8's hence the 5.7.
Is Ram deliberately running low cargo numbers on their Ecodiesel to ensure that is just a MPG "ringer"?
- GMC hasn't done anything inovative with the 1500's. They improved their engine line, made the 2014's sit even lower. Thet are betting the farm on the Colorado/Canyon.
- Toyota, no signs of any systemic change. Typical traditional and conservative approach.
- Nissan, the 5.0 Cummins is not a MPG savior unless they release a 3/4 ton pickup.
Honda, why even mention them.

"The Imports
Even though the Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra are technically considered imports, all three are built in the U.S., and all three have staked their claim in the pickup truck schoolyard."

That statement is completely incorrect. They are "technically" and "legally" considered domestic products. The rule of law states the final determinant of import/versus domestic is the ground that the factory sits upon not the location of head office.

Ok I can't resist.
All i'm saying is that the f-150 is probably going to be rated 26 mpg highway or better and 27 is a totally reasonable estimate. To me it has little to do with weight reduction, but it is one of the many contributing factors. They have said repeatedly that the truck has been designed with fuel economy in mind. Improved aerodynamics is one HUGE factor (not just grille shutters but they are saying the other aspects of the truck were changed to make it better than previously such as the slope of the windshield, even the design of the wheels and the brakes and the shape of the rear differential etc.), reduced weight is a factor(It won't make a huge difference for highway MPG by itself but it is definitely worth mentioning). A smaller less powerful engine is likely going to use less fuel (yes it uses more fuel per liter, but if done right it will use less fuel overall) The most fuel efficient vehicles almost always have smaller engines and the WHOLE purpose of putting in this tiny 2.7 engine is to increase efficiency. I think it's safe to say it will be more efficient BECAUSE it is a smaller engine and because it was designed with efficiency as its entire purpose. Then there are other things they've said such as a rear differential that is slightly more efficient at transferring power (again probably a very small factor but just one of many). Do you guys not realize that this is an all-new truck? They aren't just throwing a smaller engine in a 2014 and calling it a day. Most of the changes they are making are to improve fuel economy in one way or another. It most likely will be significantly better than the previous generation because of the MANY COMBINED FACTORS. Is there any reason to believe it won't be better than the ram with pentastar v6? I'm not saying the pentastar is a bad engine, but just objectively looking at the facts it would make sense for it to get 1 to 3 mpg better highway. If it doesn't get better than ram's v6 then it will be a big failure. That is just not very likely. I look forward to saying "I told you so" to mileage man and papa jim when we find out what the 2.7 is rated at. And by the way, current owners of the 3.7 v6 f-150 say they have gotten as good as 25 mpg on a trip 9Idoubt that is typical but the 23 highway figure is easily attainable). I don't think the pentastar ram with 8 speed has been around long enough and I haven't heard what the real-world mpg is. 27 isn't that crazy of a number. I will be disappointed if the new ford is less than 27.

@LouBC, "Nissan, the 5.0 Cummins is not a MPG savior unless they release a 3/4 ton pickup.
Honda, why even mention them."

I am guessing the 5.0 Cummins in the Nissan might be for a 3/4 ton truck. Not a 1/2 ton.

Too bad VW never introduced the Amarok in the US. It's smaller then a full-size truck, has a great 2.0 diesel and the same ZF 8-speed transmission that Chrysler uses.

It does lack low range, but the tranny makes up for it with low first and reverse gears.

It tows up to 7.000 lbs and has +1.000 lbs payload.

The 2014 F150 short bed: WB 125.9, height 74.8, width 79, curb weight (base 3.7 v6) 4685.

OTOH: the 1994 F150 RCSB: WB 116.0, height 70.8, base curb weight 3985 lbs.

In round numbers, the current truck is 15% heavier (700 lbs)

Yes they have grown, yes, more than is needed for a light duty truck. A lot of work was done with 1993 trucks.

What MPG would the current 3.7 deliver in a 3900 lb truck-especially one that is 3 inches lower than the current model?

Interestingly, the 1993 full size is close to the 2015 Chevy Colorado ext. cab. GM likely has a winner on its hands.

I am glad it is someone else debating papa jim. Big Al you probably won't convince most of the readers here about diesels and midsize trucks until it happens. It is hard to believe in Evolution when you have not evolved.

@Jeff S

evolution is for monkeys, Jeff, or whatever handle you are using these days. You and your family are only a few thousand years from being useful organisms.

@BAF0 - It'd take a dramatic increase in full-size truck prices to force buyers away. $50,000+ trucks (before rebates) are commonplace now. Full-size truck buyers aren't the cheapskates you think they are. Except for me. Look at the price of diesel Cummins, Power Stroke and Duramax options. Crazy...

The additional cost of building aluminum trucks, Ford can absorb. And afford. Are you kidding? Spread out over several million F-150s per generation? The F-series is not only the most profitable truck, but the most profitable car on the planet. Some 20 years running. Again, are you kidding???

And the price of full-size trucks would have to practically double to force vans as a replacement for pickups. It'd be tough to impossible for a van to fill the shoes of pickups. Much of what pickups are used for would be difficult to impossible in vans. 5th wheel trailers? Work vans with 4wd are aftermarket conversions. And much of the full-size truck market is luxury. Picture a King Ranch, Longhorn, Limited or Platinum Van. Or a Raptor van adaptation. Exactly... Stop talking nonsense...

Any diesel you can put in a van, you can put in a pickup. Problem solved.

But are you really saying GM countered the upcoming aluminum trucks with the Colorado/Canyon clones? Really?

So why would Toyota and Nissan take on GM, Ford, Fiat/Ram half tons with the Frontier and Tacoma? That's a little absurd, wouldn't you say?

'Medium size' works good for cars, van, SUV and cross overs, but for pickups, it's a different story. You're talking about a several classes of pickups, up to medium duty commercial that would cripple America if they disappeared. To say we rely on them would be an understatement. And yeah, we love them too. When pickups are mentioned in song, we're not talking Mitsubishi...

I'm starting to see more and more pickups replace big rigs when it comes to delivering brand new cars to dealers from the factory and US Customs (border). Yes using private contractors in HD pickups with 4 car haulers (5th wheel trailers) is the latest way new car dealers are hedging the cost of normal union big rig delivery.

Outsiders may not understand America, the heart and soul, but just understand this... Full-size pickup trucks will be here after everything else is gone. And gasoline V8s will always be offered in full-size trucks. It's just a natural combination that fits.

But the Chevy SS sedan is taxed like any other gas guzzler. Yes it's called the Gas Guzzler Tax ironically...

Except for a few niche buyers that want an oil burner in a light duty car, truck or SUV, diesels are our past, not our future.

All things evolve papa jim, whether it be by the hand of God, or the hand of Man. The proof is all around us.

Cars have evolved from flimsy, rickety bicycle-wheeled curiosities to the big, luxurious barges of the '60, down to the boxy econoboxes of the early '80s and back up to the sleek, economical things we see on our roads today.
Trucks, too, have evolved from totally utilitarian motorized buckboards through many of the same transitions as the car to now dominating the roads at more than twice the size and weight of the average car. They will continue to evolve--just like Man himself will continue to evolve.

@papa jim--If I am a monkey you are too. We share most of our DNA with them. Not all Evolution is about apes. Evolution can refer to any type of change whether it be organic or inorganic. My real name is Jeff, but I doubt your real name is Papa Jim, maybe James or Jim. Thanks for the compliment about being useless at least my ancestors were here to fight in the Revolution. Again, thanks and have a nice day!

The subsidies are there precisely to encourage the auto cartels to do the right thing and develop alternative fuels.

Diesels are like the CFL light bulb. They're a stepping stone and an improvement but not a viable long term solution.

Some of the first vehicles that were on the road, were electric. To suggest that the technology isn't there yet is kind of silly. The technology is there. The infrastructure is not.

@MaXx - I have to agree. The proliferation of electonic devices have pushed electric consumption to the limits of current production. Trillions of dollars need to be invested in enrgy infrastructure whether it be electricity, or natural gas. Using oil to heat homes is a highly ilogical misuse of resources. I'm still amazed to hear people heating homes with coal.

Someone has to pay for your dreams.

When these other technologies become viable then yes. But to subsidise a technology to encourage it's use is a waste of resources that could have been better spent.

It creates a false industry that become reliant on handouts. Even Detroit was reliant on handouts and protection. The US is broke and can't afford these types of luxuries.

CNG is bulky and should have been used for industrial, power generation and domestic use. Not motor vehicles.

EVs, what a waste, how many tax dollars are wasted on an unviable technology. Explain to my nieces and nephews in the US why the government is wasting their money.

There are diesel vehicles that are actually less polluting than EVs. EVs aren't the 'end all, be all'. How much lithium is there?

EVs, hybrids will make motoring for the average person more expensive. The US is going through a reduction in their standard of living.

So, how many will be able to afford to drive a vehicle in the end. I would rather see a fuel tax forcing people into smaller vehicles using less fuel than forcing most out of driving.

When the time comes for EVs, then a free market will determine this.

None of us for sure what types of vehicles will be popular or what type of energy they will run on 20 or more years. Trucks will evolve over a period of time. For the forseeable future oil will be the primary source of energy. The use of hybrid systems with both gasoline and diesel could become more widespread as a way to increase the mpgs. There are some challenging times ahead for all the manfacturers.

@Jeff S
My view is if the 'energy' and 'emissions' are a problem consume less.

But the easiest and most effective way to use less is to increase the cost of the fuel, not the vehicles.

Australia has some real dumb ass ideas. Australia is going down the path of CO2 reduction and will not use nuclear energy because of it's percieved downsides.

But yet we are keep on wanting to increase coal exports and exports of uranium. Work that one out.

It's industry and government meddling. Like I stated this will increase costs unnecessarily. This will also reduce the ability of other innovative ideas that could be better than the way governments are forcing the direction we are heading in with these technologies.

My view is, yes the governments are trying to reduce greenhouse gases and emissions, but are they for our advantage or the large corporations?

I don't disagree with the reduction of CO2 and emissions, but I disagree with the way we throw money at it.

The Chinese will have the future EV market sown up, not the Euro's, Japanese or US.

How many green business startups that used tax payer dollars have gone broke or the Chinese bought up the technology when they do go broke?

You have to love the power of lobby groups and the waste that comes from it.

Governments should govern for the people not who pays the most to a political party.

I think I have to side with both Jeff S and Maxx on this.

Technology is ever evolving and the systems we use today are merely intermediate steps to sustainable long term solutions. I know a lot of folks have pointed to hydrogen fuel cells as the future but the problem is the source of hydrogen is typically from refined methane which is the primary ingredient in natural gas. A hydrogen system also has to deal with immense energy use to split it apart, store it and transport it. It is far from being a green "well-to-wheel" solution although it is quite clean on a "wheel-only" end measure.

Electric is proving its metal right now and although lithium does have to be mined and refined it is lest costly and polluting than mining, refining and storing hydrogen. I think even lithium batteries are merely a step along the way to other systems but at least they are 100% recyclable and there is an abundant supply of the metal (just not a concentrated supply, which is why it is somewhat expensive to mine).

Some time this week Tesla is supposed to do a press conference on their new Gigawatt battery factory. The thought currently is that this single location will be able to exactly double the world's supply of lithium batteries produced each year. Not just for cars but ALL lithium battery production worldwide. That kind of scale will make some of these hated subsidies not needed or could be significantly reduced.

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