Otherlab, a private R&D company in San Francisco, recently announced the development of a new CNG fuel tank design that the company says will make natural gas a more attractive motor fuel.
The new tank, dubbed Conformable Tank, would replace cylindrical storage tanks currently found in NGVs with a network of small radius, high pressure storage tubes modeled after human intestines. The coiled tubes could be conformed to the shape of the vehicle, saving critical space.
Otherlab worked to develop the new technology after concluding that today’s CNG fuel tank design standards are too bulky and expensive to facilitate widespread adoption of NGVs. Otherlab said on its website:
“These conformable tanks will provide new design freedoms to car makers and enable a generation of cleaner, more comfortable, more efficient natural gas vehicles.”
The company added that the system could be constructed from relatively low-cost materials, including stainless steel and carbon fiber, and is suitable for highly-automated manufacturing processes.
The improved fuel tank design was funded in part by a $250,000 grant from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a U.S. government agency that seeks to promote research and development of innovative energy ideas.
Otherlab hopes the new storage system will remove barriers to adoption of NGVs, which could help create jobs in fuel production and the manufacture of NGVs and refueling infrastructure. The company also highlights the cost-savings and environmental benefits of CNG over gasoline and other motor fuels.