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TI Automotive claims to have developed the world’s first plastic fuel tank to meet California’s strict Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) requirements.

Named Permblok AS6, the tank is built with six layers of material to reduce fuel permeation and exceed rigorous crash-test standards. It was co-developed in partnership with the French petrochemical company Atofina at TI Automotive’s research facility in Rastatt, Germany.

Dr. Pierre Delbarre, TI Automotive’s global director of materials and innovations, recently presented a technical paper on the fuel tank at an International Technical Business Consultants (ITB) automotive fuel systems conference in Detroit.

TI Automotive already has been awarded a contract to supply its AS6 tank for a North American production vehicle in 2004.

“The development of Permblok AS6 builds on TI Automotive’s breakthrough six-layer ‘ship-in-a-bottle’ (SIB) and complete vapour recovery (CVR) designs,” Delbarre said. “These designs enclose fuel pumps, level sensors and other components inside the fuel tank to significantly reduce vehicle evaporative emissions.”

TI Automotive introduced the SIB design in 2002 to help automakers meet California’s LEV II regulations.

AS6 combines two barrier materials — ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH) and Atofina’s Orgalloy FT104 nylon-based alloy — in a way that both reduces fuel permeation and improves structural integrity and crashworthiness. The new tank structure offers superior performance for elevated temperatures (above 100 degrees C).

AS6 provides automakers with a broader degree of design flexibility without adding weight or taking up additional space. Plastic provides a significant advantage over steel for tanks because it doesn’t corrode; it is more easily shaped; it is lighter, and moulds are cheaper and easier to produce.

The new tank meets PZEV requirements with several different types of fuels, including fuels containing alcohol, which are highly aggressive or even corrosive to many materials. The cost of the new tank is expected to be competitive with steel tanks that meet PZEV regulations.

AS6 meets PZEV standards for evaporation from the fuel system. The tank also meets California’s LEV II standards, along with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 2 and the EU’s Euro IV regulations.