The compatibility of aluminium with alternative fuels is an important topic for automotive applications. Hydro has already passed one test: It is delivering coated aluminium tubes for Bentley's dazzling new flexible-fuel vehicle.
The compatibility question in this new field is critical for aluminium, particularly in the fight with competing materials. Hydro is testing several of its products, rolled and extruded, to be able to support customers with documentation that aluminium remains a viable option for such applications.
Hydro's aluminium tubing unit has just received word that its operation in Denmark will be delivering coated aluminium tube - its trademarked Hycot tube - for the new vehicle. The Tønder plant supplies TI Automotive, which then delivers the assembled fuel-line solution to Bentley.
Bentley unveiled its first bio-fuel compatible car - the Continental Supersports - at the Geneva Auto Show in March. With 621 horsepower, it is Bentley's fastest car ever, and it is also its first vehicle that is capable of running on either gasoline or E85 biofuel, or on a combination of the two. This is known as flex-fuel technology.
Bentley wants to make its entire vehicle range capable of running on renewable fuel by 2012.
Unique in the market
About this time last year, Bentley told Hydro that new carbon-dioxide emission requirements and its need for a greener image had forced the carmaker to introduce flex-fuel vehicles - and that this would require them to review the entire fuel system.
"They told us they were leaning toward changing the fuel lines from PA12 coated aluminium - Hycot - to stainless steel, which is considered the safe choice," says Flemming Kolt Christiansen, key account manager for Hydro.
Hydro responded by initiating a project to document the compatibility of aluminium with bio-fuels in new operating conditions. The project involved in-house technical experts from locations in Europe and North America.
"As result of this project, we were able to provide - on short notice - the documentation that ultimately showed Bentley that they could continue using Hycot in their first generation of flex-fuel vehicles," says Kolt Christiansen.
E85 biofuel is named after its formula, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent conventional gasoline. E85 is widely available in USA, Brazil, Sweden and Germany and increasingly in rest of Europe.
Hydro is the global market leader in the field of aluminium solutions for automotive and non-automotive heat transfer applications, including air-conditioning systems. Its aluminium precision tubing unit has about 1,200 employees at manufacturing facilities in Asia, Europe, North America and South America.