Rhodia SA has a new line of polyamide resins aimed at taking over some of the market space for blow molded fuel tanks now filled by multilayer high density polyethylene.
While the Lyon, France-based company would like to win business in the large automotive fuel-tank marketplace eventually, its Fuel'In by Technyl family of nylon is launching first on small tanks for lawn and garden equipment, motorcycles and off-road vehicles, and in fuel-filler pipes.
The material is aimed at stepping in as new regulations limiting emissions from small fuel tanks hit the United States. The Technyl line will allow companies to meet those new targets with a monolayer tank, rather than forcing them to invest the capital needed to make multilayer tanks, said Jean-Claude Steinmetz in an April 13 interview during the Society of Automotive Engineers 2010 World Congress in Detroit. Steinmetz is Rhodia vice president of automotive and transportation markets.
The new line also has improved impact resistance in extreme cold temperatures, which is required by many original equipment manufacturers using the small tanks, he said.
Molders already making small tanks can drop the new Rhodia material into existing blow molding equipment fairly easily, said Alan Dubin, business development and technical service manager with Rhodia's engineering plastics group in North America. Injection molders will have to adjust for some shrinkage issues, but still can meet emissions and impact requirements.
While there are plenty of existing multilayer blow molding operations in the U.S. that could meet the new standards, those machines are set up for large tanks and large molds, Steinmetz said. Small tanks of 2 or 3 gallons are not designed to go on the same equipment as those for 15- or 20-gallon tanks.
At the same time, molders of those small tanks may fill orders for 5,000 or 8,000 tanks not tens or even hundreds of thousands familiar to the auto market.
But that does not mean that Rhodia has given up on the auto industry for its Technyl product, with potential business in the expanding electric and hybrid vehicles market.
What's going to be the car of the future? Steinmetz asked. There will be more hybrids, but then you have to ask yourself, do you need the same size of fuel tank?
General Motors Corp.'s upcoming Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle, for instance, will have a small on-board generator to provide electricity once the original charge is low. That generator will have an 8-gallon tank.
The company also hopes to find business as existing multilayer tank makers open new plants or new production lines and look at alternative production systems, he said.
The expanded Technyl grades already have commercial applications in fuel-filler pipes and on a motorcycle in Europe.
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