For decades, automobile manufacturers and consumers have been addicted to fossil fuels, so much so that it’s cost everyone a great deal of money; so much so that it’s cost everyone, and the planet an even greater deal of air quality; so much so that something had to be done.

Automobile manufacturers are starting to realize the importance of fuel-efficient vehicles, not just for their bottom lines — Okay, it’s a lot for their bottom lines. — but also for the future of the people they want to drive their vehicles. One such American manufacturer is achieving fuel efficiency through weight reduction, and has done so using aluminum instead of steel for the fabrication of vehicle body panels on its flagship pickup truck: the F-150.

That’s right, Ford Motor Company’s all-aluminum-body F-150 has started rolling into dealerships throughout the country. It’s the first truck from the company to have a body made of anything but steel, and thanks to this one basic change, it weighs 700 pounds less than any previous model.

“The pickup truck market is very competitive,” said Brian Faistenhammer, Ford sales zone manager for Houston. “We had to do something different to get better results.”

The change is dramatic, to be sure, but an automobile manufacturer has to do what an automobile manufacturer has to do. In a time when the American appetite for eight-foot beds cannot be quenched, automakers are facing stricter and stricter environmental regulations, and Ford has found the solution. The 2014 F-150 — the first to be made of aluminum — have seen as much as 29 percent better fuel economy than later-model trucks of the same style, which had not been rebooted in any way since 2008.

Why Aluminum?

The choice of aluminum over carbon fiber or another, lighter metal came because of its recyclability. To mine aluminum is not cheap, and in fact, aluminum is more expensive than steel, but Ford has found a way to save money, energy, and even emissions, too.

How? By recycling.

“Every single scrap of aluminum is reused,” said Mark Fields, the CEO of Ford, in an interview. “The more you can reuse or recycle, it makes it a more compelling business case.”

To offset the cost of the more expensive metal, Ford returns as much as $300 worth of leftover scrap aluminum from the F-150 manufacturing process to the plant from which it came — and that’s per truck! So when you take that shiny new Ford F-150 off the lot, you can know that not only is it more fuel efficient than the one you traded in, but you can know that Ford is doing its small part to save the planet.

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