Some time ago, manufacturers, scientists, mechanics, and others got together to try to figure out how fuel economy could be improved where delivery trucks/vans were concerned. Over and over again, one suggestion kept popping up: The best solution seemed to be to remove weight from the vehicle using precise technology and lighter materials.
So, the weight-saving aluminum van body was created. Without compromising capability, efficiency was increased. Other alternatives were definitely considered, such as downsizing, but the weight saved by the aluminum van body kept coming back up in discussions.
Aluminum Van Body? Are You Kidding?
Now, instead of steel, an aluminum van body has been created and is being used.
When many people think of aluminum, however, they think of soda cans, beer cans, etc. There is no way – they assume – that delivery trucks and vans could stand up to all the abuse they take on a regular basis if made from something that stores their favorite drink.
Of course, if you ask big rig trucking companies and the United States military about aluminum, they will tell you a completely different story. For a long time now, they’ve been using aluminum bodies with steel frames. Think of Peterbilt and Humvees.
So efficient is aluminum that – for a vehicle in a Baja 1000 race – unbeknownst to most involved, aluminum was snuck in! This was, of course, done purely as a prototype for testing and experimentation.
Stronger Than Steel? Is an Aluminum Van Body actually that Durable?
There are a couple of ways of making aluminum stronger than steel. Neither is very complicated. By making it thicker, or adding gauge, before ever reaching the same weight as steel, you can have aluminum that is three times the thickness – thereby three times as dense. You can also replace a steel part with a strengthened/heat-treated aluminum part.
The point is this: To get the exact strength you need, you tailor the aluminum part.
What about Dings and Dents?
Believe it or not, aluminum wins out here again. For ding and dent resistance, better properties are actually possessed by aluminum. Once again, while still saving about 40% of the weight, it can be gauged up for increased resistance.
After a Crash – Repair Costs
Yes, it’s true, on a per pound basis, compared to steel, repairing aluminum is more expensive. However, the following must be considered:
- Very heavy repair is seldom needed on these vehicles.
- A new panel can simply be popped in when replacement is needed – easily and simply.
What Took So Long?
Okay, if aluminum is so awesome, why wasn’t it being used before? What took so long to make this discovery?
For steel, there are numerous engineering tools already in place which have been used for decades. With aluminum, engineering tools were few and far between. Today, they are computer aided. Through the years, methods were maturing through the use and development of aluminum lift gates, hoods, etc. Thanks to the breakthrough of the latest and greatest computer aided tools, however, aluminum can be used on a far greater/broader basis today.
Is an Aluminum Van Body Right for Your Business?
There can be little doubt that aluminum van bodies would benefit your business. They simply stand up better than steel and offer enormous efficiency and fuel savings.