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Pickup changes on their way to your farm

Jeff Caldwell 02/19/2014 @ 9:19am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Ford caused quite a stir earlier this year when company officials announced they're making some major changes to the company's flagship pickup, the F-150. Moving from steel to aluminum for the body panels has been both lauded and panned by pickup drivers, including farmers.

The 2015 F-150 will weigh in almost 700 pounds lighter than its steel-bodied predecessors, and the material is touted as "high-strength" and "military-grade," though some doubt whether it will be as strong and durable as steel.

In the background of changes like these -- of which there will likely be more down the road -- is a new set of fuel-efficiency standards for both light- and heavy-duty trucks outlined by President Barack Obama earlier this month. It's part of the president's larger plan to cut back oil use and reduce emissions, according to a report from the office of the president's press secretary.

"Increasing the efficiency of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is a key component of the president’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions. Heavy-duty vehicles represent a major opportunity to cut transportation oil use and carbon pollution," according to the report. "In 2010, heavy-duty vehicles represented just 4% of registered vehicles on the road in the U.S., but they accounted for approximately 25% of on-road fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. They are currently the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector."

There's also a cost savings in play with the president's plan; for medium- and heavy-duty trucks including semitrailers, standards adopted three years ago reduced overall oil consumption by 530 million barrrels, a savings that adds up to $50 billion in fuel costs "over the lifetimes of the vehicles covered.

"An operator of a new 2018 semi truck could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and realize a net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs over the truck’s useful life," according to the White House report.

So, what does that mean for the next pickup you buy? Things like aluminum body panels that reduce overall vehicle weight comprise just one key area of technology outlined in the president's plan. It also includes:

  • Engine and power train efficiency improvements
  • Aerodynamics
  • Weight reduction
  • Improved tire rolling resistance
  • Hybridization
  • Automatic engine shutdown
  • Accessory improvements (water pumps, fans, auxiliary power units, air conditioning, etc.).

When will it all start to happen? Some small changes are included in 2014 models, with the remainder coming in the next four model years.

"The President is directing the EPA and the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop and issue the next phase of medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 2016," according to a White House report. "This second round of fuel-efficiency standards will build on the first-ever standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (model years 2014 through 2018)."

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