Modular Natural Gas Tank

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC)
Low Cost Hybrid Materials and Manufacturing for Conformable CNG Tanks
Image of UTRC's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$4,299,964
Location: 
East Hartford, CT
Project Term: 
10/01/2012 to 09/30/2015
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Critical Need: 
Today's natural gas vehicles are fitted with on-board fuel tanks that are too large, difficult to integrate into the vehicle, 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: 
UTRC is developing a conformable modular storage tank that could integrate easily into the tight spaces in the undercarriage of natural gas-powered vehicles. Traditional steel and carbon fiber natural gas storage tanks are rigid, bulky, and expensive, which adds to the overall cost of the vehicle and discourages broad use of natural gas vehicles. UTRC is designing modular natural gas storage units that can be assembled to form a wide range of shapes and fit a wide range of undercarriages. UTRC's modular tank could substantially improve upon the conformability level of existing technologies at a cost of approximately $1500, considerably less than today's tanks.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, UTRC's modular natural gas tank would serve as a viable alternative to today's storage tanks, offering a low-cost storage solution without sacrificing driving range.
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: 
Ms. Alison Gotkin
Partners
Lincoln Composites
Oak Ridge National Lab