Oak Brook, Ill. — Plastic offers advantages over metal for automotive fuel filler pipes, the pipe that leads from the gas pump nozzle to your car's fuel tank, a Ford Motor Co. executive said at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Annual Blow Molding Conference.
“We are always looking forward to how we can increase the plastic contact in our vehicles,” said Mohammad Usman, global manager and technical leader for computer-aided engineering and material development at Ford's Powertrain Installations division.
The filler pipes can be made by 3D blow molding or extrusion.
Usman said multilayer plastic filler pipes are about 40 percent lighter than metal, cost less, do not corrode and offer design flexibility and simplicity, making them easier to attach to the fuel tank, a critical step.
“You're going from at least six components to one component, and that's the advantage of the plastic filler pipe,” he said.
Environmental rules say hydrocarbon vapors must be entirely contained in the fuel system, including the filler pipe, fuel lines and gas tanks.
Litigation concerns in the United States are holding back a change to plastic in North America, Usman said.
“North America has not moved on to the plastic filler pipe. Whereas as the rest of the world, in European and the Japanese OEMs in their region, have moved over the plastic filler pipe,” he said.
He said cars imported to the United States from those regions already can have plastic filler pipes, but cars produced here do not.
“Ford hopefully will be the first one to put a plastic filler pipe in the vehicles,” Usman said, noting that Ford was a pioneer of the plastic fuel tank.
Ford is doing a competitive study — and plans to run a side-by-side analysis of filler pipes made of plastic and metal — and talking to possible suppliers, he said,
“We have evaluated about six Tier 1 suppliers for bringing the plastic filler pipe for our vehicles,” Usman said.
Multilayer plastic filler pipes do pose some technical challenges. They need shielding in case of a crash, and that can add costs, taking away some of plastics' price advantage, he said.