IACMI – the Composite Institute – is working on a technology that will reduce the cost of producing high-performance carbon fibre by 25 per cent to make composite natural gas or hydrogen fuel tanks to power cars and trucks. It will receive $2.7 million from the US Department of Energy (DOE) for the project. Composite fuel tanks are relatively expensive.
Fuel tanks add significantly to a vehicle’s cost, impeding the use of these clean fuels in US transportation. Throughout IACMI’s first five years of funding, the Manufacturing USA institute has focused one of its technology areas on compressed gas storage (CGS) tanks, making headway in innovations of materials and processes that lead to wider adoption of the technology in novel applications.
“Validating the use of low-cost, high-strength carbon fibre for compressed hydrogen and natural gas storage tanks will help expand technology choices for ground transportation,” IACMI CEO John Hopkins said. “Significant cost reduction is especially difficult for the type of carbon fibre used in CSG tanks and this project addresses that challenge.”
Hopkins said while composite fuel tanks are lighter than other options, they have also been relatively expensive. Well over half of the composite fuel tank’s cost is attributed to carbon fibre used in its manufacture. So, reducing the cost of making carbon fibre will also lower the cost of composite fuel tanks making them a viable alternative to improve storage options and with no reduction of fuel tank performance.
The new award is one of 18 projects and approximately $64 million in DOE funding that will support the [email protected] vision for affordable hydrogen production, storage, distribution, and use. Four of the 18 projects focus on composite fuel tanks. The projects will support the next round of research, development, and demonstration (RD and D) activities under [email protected]’s multi-year initiative to fully realise hydrogen’s benefits across the economy.
DOE will fund the projects through its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office. The projects will feature collaborations with EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office to manufacture reliable, affordable electrolysers and with EERE’s Vehicle Technologies Office to develop low-cost, high-strength carbon fibre for hydrogen storage tanks.
Hopkins said in addition to advancing carbon fibre technology for CGS tanks, the project will validate how collaboration by industry, government and academia partners advances composites innovation. These collaborations drive smarter manufacturing practices and create capacity and related expertise impactful for US manufacturers.