Conformable Core Gas Tank

REL, Inc.
Fully and Intricately Conformable, Single-Piece, Mass-Manufacturable High-Pressure Gas Storage Tanks
Image of REL's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,000,000
Location: 
Calumet, MI
Project Term: 
09/01/2012 to 08/31/2015
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Critical Need: 
Today's natural gas vehicles are fitted with on-board fuel tanks that are too large, cumbersome, and expensive to properly facilitate the widespread adoption of natural gas vehicles in the U.S. and globally. Additionally, the low volumetric density of natural gas--roughly 30% less energy by volume than gasoline--limits the driving range of natural gas vehicles and makes cost-effective storage solutions a significant challenge. Dramatic improvements must be made to the capacity, conformability, and cost of on-board storage to accelerate natural gas vehicle adoption.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
REL is developing a low-cost, conformable natural gas tank for light-duty vehicles that contains an internal structural cellular core. Traditional natural gas storage tanks are cylindrical and rigid. REL is exploring various materials that could be used to design a gas tank's internal structure that could allow the tank to be any shape. The REL team is exploring various methods of manufacturing the interconnected core structure and the tank skin to identify which combination best meets their target pressure-containment objectives. REL's conformable internal core would enable higher storage capacity than current carbon fiber-based tanks at 70% less cost. REL is developing small-scale prototypes that meet their durability, safety, and cost goals before scaling up to a full-sized prototype.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, REL's foam core gas tank would provide improved storage capacity and fit easily into any natural gas vehicle, enabling their widespread use.
Security: 
Improving the convenience of natural gas vehicle ownership could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make consumers less vulnerable to sudden oil price shocks.
Environment: 
Natural gas vehicles produce approximately 10% less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles throughout the fuel life cycle.
Economy: 
Compressed natural gas currently costs half as much per gallon of gasoline equivalent. With the average American spending over $2000 per year on gas, enabling the use of natural gas vehicles could save drivers $1000 per year.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Dane Boysen
Project Contact: 
Dr. Adam Loukus
Partners
Endres Machining Innovations, LLC