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ARPA-E selects 13 projects for $30M in awards to advance natural gas vehicle technologies

The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) will award $30 million to 13 projects to advance natural gas vehicle technologies in its new program titled “Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy” (MOVE). MOVE projects aim to engineer light-weight, affordable natural gas tanks for vehicles as well as to develop natural gas compressors that can efficiently fuel a natural gas vehicle at home. ARPA-E had issued the Funding Opportunity Announcement for MOVE in February. (Earlier post.)

Topping the award list is Ford Motor Company, with a $5.5-million award to engineer an adsorbed natural gas storage system utilizing a novel external framework and internal porous materials.

Today’s natural gas vehicle technologies require tanks that can withstand high pressures, are often cumbersome, and are either too large or too expensive to be suitable for smaller passenger vehicles. ARPA-E’s new projects are focused on removing these barriers, which will help encourage the widespread use of natural gas cars and trucks. Projects selected for negotiation of awards (final award amounts may vary) include:

Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy” (MOVE) awards
Lead organization Description Funding
Center for Electromechanics - University of Texas at Austin Single-Piston Four-Stage Linear Home Natural Gas Compressor. The University of Texas at Austin will develop an at-home natural gas refueling system that compresses gas with a single piston. Unlike current four-piston compressors, UT Austin’s highly integrated single-piston system will use fewer moving parts, leading to a more reliable, lighter, and cost effective compressor. $4,300,000
Colorado State University Engine-Integrated Natural Gas Compressor. Colorado State University will develop a vehicle-based natural gas refueling system that will use the vehicle engine itself to compress natural gas. The engine will have the ability to both power the vehicle as well as compress natural gas for storage. Drivers will be able to connect their vehicle to any natural gas line for fast, convenient refueling. $700,000
Eaton Corporation Liquid-Piston Isothermal Home Natural Gas Compressor. Eaton Corporation will develop an at-home natural gas refueling system that will use a liquid, which acts as a piston, to compress natural gas. Eaton will engineer a heat-transfer material that controls the temperature during compression and improves efficiency. This liquid compression system will eliminate the need for costly high-pressure piston seals that are used in conventional gas compression. $3,400,000
Ford Motor Company Adsorbed Natural Gas System for Vehicles. Ford Motor Company will engineer a high-performance natural gas storage tank that utilizes an innovative external framework and internal porous materials. This comprehensive design will lower pressure and cost while increasing the performance of the fuel system. $5,500,000
Gas Technology Institute Engineered Adsorption Materials for Gas Storage. The Gas Technology Institute will identify new porous materials for low-pressure gas storage tanks using their computational screening tool. This approach enables the rapid identification of low-cost, high-performance materials that will speed the development of low-pressure natural gas tanks for vehicles. $1,500,000
Gas Technology Institute Nano-Valved Materials for Natural Gas Storage. The Gas Technology Institute will develop a unique low-pressure natural gas storage tank for light-duty vehicles using a thin tailored shell to increase storage capacity while driving down cost. GTI’s innovative shell contains valves that can be opened and closed on demand to allow for vehicle refueling, driving, or storage. $875,000
General Electric Global Research Chilled Natural Gas for At-Home Refueling. General Electric Global Research will develop an at-home natural gas refueling system that will chill, densify, and transfer compressed natural gas more efficiently to light-duty vehicles than conventional refueling systems. This fast-fueling design has very few moving parts, will operate quietly, and will be virtually maintenance-free. $1,800,000
OtherLab, Inc. Safe, Conformal, Gas Intestine Storage. OtherLab will develop a high-pressure natural gas tank for light-duty vehicles using small diameter tubes tightly wound into a tank shape. Like human intestines, these small tubes will fit tightly into virtually any shape for efficient storage. Gas intestine storage tanks could be as light as today’s carbon fiber tanks at one fifth the cost. $250,000
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Superplastic-Formed Gas Storage Tanks. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will develop a low-cost, conformable natural gas tank for light-duty vehicles utilizing the same metal forming techniques used to fabricate high-strength cruise missile fins. This ultralight tank incorporates high-strength internal strut technology that efficiently fits into a vehicle. $600,000
REL, Inc. Shape Conformable Foam Core Gas Tanks. REL will develop a low-cost, conformable natural gas tank for light-duty vehicles that has an internal foam core. Unlike normal hollow pressure vessels that are cylindrical, this internal foam design will allow tanks to be formed into any shape. The foam core will enable higher storage capacity than current carbon fiber tanks at one-third the cost. $3,000,000
SRI International Container-less Natural Gas Storage. SRI International will develop low-pressure natural gas storage tanks for light-duty vehicles using porous materials that enable low pressure storage at high energy densities. SRI’s unique approach using porous carbon materials will provide structural strength and high surface area for gas adsorption that will entirely eliminate the need for a costly external tank. $875,000
Texas A&M University Advanced Porous Materials for Vehicular Natural Gas Storage. Texas A&M University will develop highly adsorbent materials for low-pressure natural gas storage tanks. These low cost materials enable low-pressure natural gas to efficiently adhere to their engineered porous structures, storing gas at very high energy densities. $3,000,000
United Technologies Research Center Low Cost Modular Natural Gas Tanks. United Technologies Research Center will engineer a low-cost natural gas tank for light-duty vehicles using modular designs and low-cost construction materials, allowing tanks to be manufactured into shapes that easily fit into the tight spaces of light duty vehicles. This modular design will replace today’s bulky storage tanks in light duty vehicles at a lower cost and without sacrificing driving range. $4,400,000



Will they keep 2 tanks, one for gas and one for natural gas so the car become bi-fuel even if the tanks take a lot of space. This will open the market. Honda is impeding this market because they sell a natural gas civic gs but with just one tank of natural gas so you can be in trouble if you go far.

Roger Pham

Another approach is the use of ultra-efficient HEV's like the upcoming Toyota ft bh hybrid, capable of well over 100 mpg. This allows the new CNG vehicle to keep the same tank size as current gasoline ICEV without any major breakthrough. Even current carbon-fiber-composite tank would only cost around $500-600 to make a tank that would enable a future 100-mpge-plus CNG vehicle 300-500 miles range.

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