Chrysler's CNG Fuel Tank Breakthrough

Chrysler announced this week that it has invented a CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) fuel tank that could revolutionize CNG-vehicle design. Here is a selection from a November 12 Automotive News article about their announcement:

Chrysler Group says it has developed a tank to store compressed natural gas that mimics human lungs and will allow the cheaper fuel source to more easily be used in automobiles.

The design uses smaller compartments inside a larger tank to increase fuel capacity and storage, similar to the alveoli within the human lung. It would free automakers from being forced to use large reinforced cylinders to store compressed natural gas onboard automobiles and would allow fuel to be stored within non-cylindrical shapes.

Eric Mayne, a Chrysler spokesman, said the automaker won't discuss how or when the technology will be used on future automobiles.

Currently, CNG costs about half the price of gasoline at a filling station. Its main disadvantages are:

  1. Scarcity of CNG filling stations
  2. The extra cost of a CNG vehicle.
  3. The trunk or bed space sacrificed. 

The number of available filling stations has been increasing rapidly, and both GE and Eaton Corp. will soon be marketing $500 home fueling appliances. The price of a car or light truck has been kept high by EPA regulation, but will eventually fall, due to competition.

Chrysler's new invention could greatly reduce the trunk or bed space disadvantage. In current CNG pickups, the cylindrical fuel tank takes up the front two feet of the bed.  A flatter CNG tank could, perhaps, be placed underneath the bed.