3M sees an opportunity in making fuel tanks for natural gas vehicles.
Currently in a natural gas vehicle, the fuel tank is the most expensive component, said 3M's Mike Roman. And less-expensive fuel tanks could rev up the market for natural gas-fueled vehicles.
3M will be working with the Chesapeake Energy, the nation's second-largest producer of natural gas, to design cheaper, lighter and higher-capacity tanks for the fuel.
"Today there's about 140,000 vehicles on the road in the U.S. using natural gas," Roman said. "Those are primarily commercial fleets, transit buses, refuse trucks. We think we can greatly expand the use on those fleets and then we can expand to other fleets and eventually passengers cars, as well."
3M will use its expertise in thermoplastics, coatings, and other technologies to increase tank capacity by 10 to 20 percent while reducing weight by 10 to 20 percent," Roman said.
"The tanks are going to be lighter, safer, more durable and less expensive, ultimately," Roman said, "which should enable the market to grow faster and access more vehicle applications sooner."
That could spur further adoption of natural gas as a vehicle fuel, especially for passenger cars.
3M expects the tanks to be available for sale by the end of this year.