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New technologies drive plastic fuel line advances

SpecialChem / Jun 10, 2004

Plastics have recently made tremendous inroads in automotive fuel systems. In fact, some 92% of all fuel tanks in Europe and 74% in North America are now made of plastics, mostly multilayer HDPE structures, according to The ITB Group, a market research firm in Novi, Michigan, U.S.A. But plastics have been slower to find their way into the tubes that carry fuel to and from the engine components. The slower pace stems from concerns by auto companies over the ability of plastic fuel lines to meet strict air emission standards, and to resist electrostatic discharges (ESDs), which could ignite flammable fuels. Automakers also need to be convinced that fuel lines made of plastics can withstand the impact of crashes at low winter temperatures and can resist degradation from alcohol fuels. But resin suppliers and Tier One auto manufacturers have developed new fuel line materials and designs which they say can meet these challenges. Compared with existing rubber and steel fuel lines, plastic fuel lines are lighter in weight, lower in cost and often less permeable. They are also available in many colors, which makes it easier to place, track and connect fuel supplies.

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