Plastic Fuel Tanks Show Potential For Hybrids

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It’s an interesting concept, especially to an automotive technician, but more and more people seem to be discarding the notion of a metal fuel tank and going with plastic. It’s a bold move that might just increase the efficiency of hybrid vehicles, and bring the cost down a fair bit.

The technology and the push for durable, reliable plastic fuel tanks is relatively new in the grand scheme of things, but so far they’re being met with quite the warm welcome from consumers and manufacturers alike. Even your auto mechanic is going to be excited.

So why the sudden embracing of plastic fuel tanks, anyway? Well, as it turns out, there is a wealth of advantages that plastic fuel tanks have over their clunky metal counterparts – everything from safety to cost-effectiveness. Not only that, but new manufacturing technologies are now allowing hybrid-electric vehicle manufacturers to replace their clunky steel tanks with new quieter and lighter plastic tanks that are low on emissions – a feat that was previously thought to be impossible.

The company behind the innovation, TI Automotive, says that it has developed a new and highly innovative process of molding plastic tanks that is based on traditional blowmolding, but has several extremely important enhancements. The technology, dubbed Tank Advanced Process Technology, or TAPT, was developed to supply the new Mercedes-Benz S class.

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TI Automotive is frequently at the forefront of automotive innovation, and this new plastic tank technology is no different. A machine molds the tanks with air pressure, after which the tanks are then cut in half and robots are used to insert fuel system components, and then the tanks are sealed. Because the tanks are not only pressure resistant, but heat resistant as well, this means that they can finally be put to use in hybrid vehicles, meaning a huge reduction in cost and an increase in efficiency for the electric-gas hybrids.

The intensely strong plastic means practically eliminating vapors and emission leakage altogether, making it much easier for the vehicles to conform to emission standards. Furthermore, because the product is so easily altered, fitting the tank into the ever-changing design of hybrids is no problem at all; the tank can be molded however it needs to be. Instead of relying on several different machines to make differing styles of tanks – a process that’s not only time consuming but expensive – the new molding machine can produce tanks of any shape or size, all on the same machine. This brings the cost of hybrids down considerably.

TI Automotive, are first rolling out the technology in Europe, specifically Germany where their Rastatt plant will produce 300,000 plastic tanks this year, with even more contracts on the way. Though the technology is so far limited to Europe, engineers in Detroit are developing tanks for the North American market that comply with our standards, which hopefully means an influx of new and exciting auto careers as well.

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