Steel Tanks for Hybrid Vehicles

As vehicle manufacturers look to lighten vehicles, one of the things they’re thinking about for a variety of mass-reduction possibilities is the use of polymers in place of steel.

As vehicle manufacturers look to lighten vehicles, one of the things they’re thinking about for a variety of mass-reduction possibilities is the use of polymers in place of steel. Such as for use in fuel tanks.

But to try to cut this off before it develops too far in plug-in hybrid and extended-range electric vehicles—both of which use gasoline engines as well as batteries—the Strategic Alliance for Steel Fuel Tanks (SASFT) is collaborating with the Auto/Steel Partnership and the United States Automotive Materials Partnership to develop a method that will allow the production of sealed steel fuel tanks that have 30 to 40% mass reduction compared with available sealed steel tanks.

The approach is using thinner high-strength steel and advanced high-strength steel. Among the issues that need to be addressed are integrity, fatigue, corrosion, durability, and crash integrity. Strength is important because of the pressures associated with the sealed systems.

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Explained Peter Mould, program manager for SASFT, “To provide a fuel tank in a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that avoids vapor purging but accommodates high internal pressure buildup, current generation tanks are made of thick steel walls that can add unnecessary mass.” Clearly something that might make plastic look more appealing. He continued, “That’s why we will work to provide steel tanks with the same mechanical performance required for advanced hybrid vehicles that will have thinner walls, contributing directly to vehicle mass reduction and reduced fuel consumption.” That is, less weight to move, less fuel to burn.

According to SASFT, the tanks developed through the program that’s funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, “will provide high rigidity under high operating pressures that is lacking from competing plastic materials.”