The Frame of The Future?
Despite what the members of Earth First! might think, body-on-frame architecture is still necessary for those vehicles that need true off-road capability, towing ability, and which may see severe duty. This is not to say that they can’t afford to lose a little weight. However, it’s hard to reduce weight when crash standards are increased.
By softening the front structure–through the “down gauging” of the front frame rails–car-to-truck crash compatibility is improved, although overall frame stiffness is reduced. Making the rest of the frame thicker recovers the lost rigidity, but at the cost of increased weight. Which increases the overall weight of the truck, and increases the energy it brings to the crash event. Which leads to a reevaluation of the materials used, and a call for alternatives that are lighter.
Unfortunately, these alternatives often carry a heavy price premium that leads automakers back to known designs made from a known material–steel, which is presumed to be heavy.
(Source: Automotive Design & Production)