The latest Odyssey minivan from Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. includes the company's first plastic fuel tank and one of the first to be made by a Japanese-based carmaker.
The updated model, launched in September, features a six-layer coextruded fuel tank made from high density polyethylene and including a barrier layer from ethylene vinyl alcohol, said Honda spokesman Roger Lambert. The HDPE construction is used on virtually every plastic fuel tank made in North America.
Honda, until now, has not made the shift from steel tanks to plastic, Lambert said. But the Odyssey's contours and the tight space surrounding the fuel system necessitated the move. The tank was molded to a special space-fitting shape, Lambert said.
``We also wanted low mileage, and the plastic tanks were lighter,'' he said.
The plastic tank costs less than comparable steel tanks, Lambert said. Much of that money is saved in tooling costs and secondary equipment, he said.
The carmaker is evaluating using plastic tanks on other vehicles, Lambert said.
Until now, few Japanese-based automakers — and none selling those vehicles in North America — use plastic tanks on vehicles in production, said Boney Mathew, president of plastic auto-parts consulting firm Mathson Industries Inc. in Troy, Mich. As many as 55 percent of all North American vehicles have plastic fuel tanks this year, Mathew estimated. But in Japan, only about 10 percent of vehicles use plastic fuel tanks, Mathew added.
The Odyssey is being assembled at Honda's Alliston, Ontario plant. The plant has the capability to make as many as 120,000 of the minivans this year, Lambert said.
Kautex Textron of Windsor, Ontario, a division of Troy, Mich.-based Textron Automotive Co. Inc., is molding the tanks for Honda. Company officials were unavailable for comment.