Chrysler Designs New CNG Technology That Mimics Human Lungs


  • 2014 Ram 2500 CNG Picture

    2014 Ram 2500 CNG Picture

    Chrysler's CNG models include the Ram 2500 Compressed Natural Gas truck. The company hopes its new fuel tank will offer designers more packaging flexibility. | November 13, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Chrysler has designed a new fuel tank that mimics human lungs while burning compressed natural gas or CNG.
  • The technology expands tank capacity and liberates designers, giving them leeway to give more space to cargo or passengers rather than the traditional cylindrical-shaped tank.
  • The Ram 2500 Compressed Natural Gas truck, with the "old" CNG technology, has been on the market since late 2012.

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan — Chrysler Group has designed a new fuel tank for compressed natural gas (CNG) that mimics a set of ever-expanding human lungs.

The technology may signal a commitment to CNG passenger vehicles by the automaker, although Chrysler is not saying whether it plans to use the new tank in a future vehicle. CNG has been lauded for reducing smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

"We don't discuss future product plans," spokesman Eric Mayne told Edmunds in an e-mail on Tuesday.

Chrysler currently offers the Ram 2500 Compressed Natural Gas truck for retail and fleet customers.

At this point, Honda stands alone in the CNG car market with the 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas model, which starts at $27,255, including a $790 destination charge.

But the domestic automakers are beginning to embrace CNG trucks.

The 2014 Ford F-150 will be offered this fall with a gaseous-fuel prep package that enables it to be run on compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. Last year, General Motors launched bi-fuel versions of the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended-cab pickup trucks. The vehicles include a compressed natural gas-capable Vortec 6.0-liter V8 engine that seamlessly transitions between CNG and gasoline fuel systems.

While current CNG tank designs are limited to cylindrical shapes to accommodate the pressure at which the gaseous fuel is stored, Chrysler's new technology tackles both issues by expanding tank capacity and granting some design leeway that preserves space intended for passengers or cargo.

"Within the human lung are countless individual sacks called alveoli," said Enrico Pisino, Chrysler Group's senior manager for innovation, in a statement. "These sacks combine to expand the lung's total air capacity. We are using this same approach to improve the packaging of CNG tanks."

Chrysler dabbled with CNG technology in the 1990s and early 2000s, manufacturing dedicated CNG-powered full-size vans, minivans and pickup trucks.

Chrysler's "lung" research is being funded with a $50,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Council's Technology Innovation Challenge, which matches companies with Michigan-based strategic partners to accelerate advanced-technology initiatives.

Edmunds says: A promising development that may have applications for Chrysler's future products.

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