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Old January 12th, 2010, 4:42 PM   #1
Dave Gomberg
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Default Alternate SCCA approved fuel cell manufacturers

The first manufacturer has been put on the SCCA list of alternative fuel cell suppliers. You can see the official list at http://www.scca.com/documents/Club%2...0Suppliers.pdf

Eagle really only deals with bladders and not containers. For formula and sports racing cars, that is all that is needed. For production based cars, Eagle will only be of help if you are looking for a replacement bladder for an existing cell. Eagle has said that if there was sufficient demand for full cells for production based cars, they might consider making them.

Dave

P.S. There are a couple of other companies we are hoping to hear from, but we haven't yet.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 12:07 AM   #2
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Dave;
Does this mean that Eagle now has FIA FT-3 certification or are they an alternate to having anFT-3 certified cell? At PRI the Eagle rep. said they were on the way toward certification. There are other U.S. mamufactures that are FIA FT-3 certified. Are they automaticly approved? There are also european manufatures that are FIA certified.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 12:25 PM   #3
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Butch:

This means Eagle has been approved by SCCA to make bladders for cars in Club Racing based on testing to FIA FT-3 requirements and certified by a Professional Engineer. They do not have FIA FT-3 certification because they did not do their testing through an FIA
designated lab. Products from manufacturers who are already FIA certified have been and still are accepted by SCCA. We simply have two different paths for manufacturers now. The GCR changes to allow this alternate path were put in place mid-2009.

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Old January 13th, 2010, 1:21 PM   #4
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Does this mean that Eagle fuel cells from a given date are legal or ALL eagle fuel cells are legal? There are some vintage cars using eagle fuel cells as they do not run SCCA races.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 2:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark_Silverberg View Post
Does this mean that Eagle fuel cells from a given date are legal or ALL eagle fuel cells are legal? There are some vintage cars using eagle fuel cells as they do not run SCCA races.
From now forward. The bladders that Eagle makes will now have a stenciled label that will include an "SCCA Approved" portion.

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Old January 13th, 2010, 3:19 PM   #6
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This is great news, assuming Eagle will make and sell a cell for a lot less than ATL.

I will contact them and share what I learn.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 4:21 PM   #7
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Dave; Is there any chance that a SFI approval will be accepted for the fuel bladders?
OR is there a way to get other types approved via some kiind of inspection committee?
Thanks
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Old January 13th, 2010, 4:40 PM   #8
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Already covered:

GCR - 74

9.3.27. FUEL CELL SPECIFICATIONS
All cars must be equipped with a safety fuel cell complying with these
specifications, except for Showroom Stock, Touring, Spec Miata,
Improved Touring, or as otherwise specified. All safety fuel cells shall
be constructed and certified in accordance with the FIA FT-3 or higher
(FT-3.5, FT-5, etc.) specifications. Alternatively, safety fuel cells shall
be constructed in accordance with FIA FT-3 or higher specifications and
tested to those requirements by an independent facility as witnessed
and certified by a Professional Engineer. The results of these tests shall
be submitted to the Club Racing department for inclusion on a list of
approved suppliers.
All safety fuel cells shall consist of a foam-filled fuel
bladder enclosed in a metal container at minimum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clyde View Post
Dave; Is there any chance that a SFI approval will be accepted for the fuel bladders?
OR is there a way to get other types approved via some kiind of inspection committee?
Thanks
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Old January 13th, 2010, 5:20 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clyde View Post
Dave; Is there any chance that a SFI approval will be accepted for the fuel bladders?
OR is there a way to get other types approved via some kiind of inspection committee?
Thanks
Our purpose here was to free our members from a non-competitive market place. SFI approval has all the problems of FIA approvals - and then some - for the manufacturers like Eagle. We have provided an alternate means for approval. But, as Peter Olivola has implied, if a manufacturer that has gone through SFI approval wants to be on our list, they need only provide the required documentation.

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Old January 14th, 2010, 10:43 AM   #10
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Well done, Dave. I know you've been working on this for some time and I appreciate your efforts.

This is a great example of our club reps. getting something really right.
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Old January 14th, 2010, 11:49 PM   #11
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This is great news, assuming Eagle will make and sell a cell for a lot less than ATL.

I will contact them and share what I learn.
I exchanged a few email messages with Jim Baxter (jim@eaglefuelcells.com). Very good communications. Seems like a good company to deal with.

He could not provide an exact price without seeing the custom cell used by my VD RF-94, but indicated it would be in the neighborhood of $1100-$1200. Not as low as I'd hoped, but less than ATL's price ($1,392 on 2008 price list). Turn around time is 2-3 weeks.

Sure wish there was an option in the $300-$400 range, but I guess I'm dreaming.
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Old January 15th, 2010, 7:57 AM   #12
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I sent my can to Eagle last year and they made a bladder for around $1100. Purely a custom job; they were easy to deal with and quick. I recommend them.
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Old January 15th, 2010, 8:23 AM   #13
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We have used Eagle for a couple of vintage FV cells and have found them to provide good products. The material they used is dark in color so keep that in mind if you previously making a visual inspection of fuel level on the side of the bladder.
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Old January 15th, 2010, 8:24 AM   #14
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Default Fuel cells

...too bad we can't use cells like the drag racers. Check the Summit Racing catalog. We could buy cells all day long for $300 or less...even cells with metal containers. Obviously the difference in price is not in materials.

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Old January 15th, 2010, 9:14 AM   #15
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Other racing organizations allow the "drag racer" cells. $300 fuel cells would help keep alot of older cars from being parked, specifically older FVs and FFs where $1100 would be a large percentage of the cars value and much of a season operational budget.

While most of the talk on this site is about $25-$50K value cars, there are probably as many $3000-$10000 cars being raced out there. More and more of those older formula cars are finding their way to non-SCCA events. I am glad Dave and SCCA are trying to open up the fuel cell market but I hope they will go further,
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Old January 15th, 2010, 12:58 PM   #16
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Many of those fuel cells utilized in drag racing are really foam filled fuel containers....they don't utilize a bladder. If the container is punctured/cracked/splits the fuel will leak out. Fuel safe also offers bladderless fuel cells...however they don't carry a FIA FT-3 or higher label.

I find it interesting that SCCA is wiling to look at safety devices that don't carry a SFI/FIA certification but will allow it when it meets or exceeds the performance standards when observed and certified by a third party PE.
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Old January 15th, 2010, 3:11 PM   #17
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There is precedent for this. In 9.4.5.F, we have a provision for alternate formula/sports racing roll hoop designs that has been in place for several years.

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Old January 15th, 2010, 5:30 PM   #18
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Default Why Rubber Bladders?

I would love to hear a reasonable explanation from somebody why racing organizations mandate the use of rubber bladder fuel containers.

And after reading the FT-3 specification, please don't tell me it's because they're "safe."
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Old January 15th, 2010, 10:40 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Gomberg View Post
There is precedent for this. In 9.4.5.F, we have a provision for alternate formula/sports racing roll hoop designs that has been in place for several years.

Dave
I wasn't too clear. I am talking about setting a precedent by relaxing the rule. Where a previous rule required a SFI and/or FIA label, now we ae not. Given my distaste for the SFI, I don't think that is a bad thing. I do think it's interesting that a recent safety rule was passed under the guise of "risk management" and then a month later we seem to be going the opposite direction.
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Old January 15th, 2010, 11:12 PM   #20
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Maybe it's the pendulum swinging back towards reasonableness. :-).

At the risk of being chastised, sometimes I wonder if an aluminum fuel tank would be fine in our cars.

Rubber bladders are obviously safer than hard tanks, but when you think about all the fuel plumbing, fittings, fuel under pressure, exposed hoses, etc., the last area that is going to suffer any damage is the fuel cell (at least on my car). If my car had an aluminum fuel tank and I was in a bad crash, there would be a lot of other fuel (and oil)-related things liable to come apart before the fuel tank would even get a scratch or dent.

I have a remote fuel accumulator tank, made out of steel. As far as I know, there are no GCR requirements that it have a rubber bladder inside. It's more exposed in a crash than my fuel cell.

I'll bet there are plenty of cars today with SCCA mandated fuel testing ports more dangerous than a safely mounted aluminum fuel tank would be. :-).
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Old January 16th, 2010, 9:59 AM   #21
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There are lots of hard side tanks that are SCCA and FT-3 approved. ATL sells four different product lines of hard rubber tanks that are SCCA and FT-3 compliant. So if you really want a square hard rubber box in your formula car, you can get one. It still needs to be in a metal container. A rather stubborn P. Eng. up here went ahead and certified his cross-linked polyurethane drag race cell as compliant, years ago. So we had to allow his cell. But he never certified any others.

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Old January 16th, 2010, 10:44 AM   #22
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Quote:
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<snip> ... So if you really want a square hard rubber box in your formula car, you can get one. It still needs to be in a metal container.
Thanks, Brian.

Personally, I'd be happy with a low cost, generic, wedge shaped, safe, leak proof fuel cell. I don't care what the material is.

Something like this? (which sells for about $150!).
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Old January 16th, 2010, 2:55 PM   #23
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My point was that the FT-3 spec is a fairly low bar to pass with regards to performance. Much of the spec is prescriptive in regards to materials and the rest of it is up to the manufacturers discretion.

The only testing it requires involves a static puncture test which is basically just applying 450#'s with the end of a large straight blade screwdriver. There are a host of possible fuel tank construction materials that could easily pass this test with nothing more than a scratch. Why then does the standard mandate rubber coated synthetics?

The argument that a rubber bladder will deform before it punctures is silly since the cell is not a pressure vessel; it has a vent on it. If the the volume of the cell gets reduced in a crash the fuel inside is free to blow out of the vent all over the place.


I'd imagine that the legacy of using rubber bladders for fuel storage comes from the aircraft industry in a time before any of us were born. It was simply a lightweight material that could hold fuel inside of a leaky wing structure. In modern times only composite structures and civil aviation uses them. All commercial planes have "wet wings."

The performance racing industry looks to the aircraft industry as the gold standard of fabrication techniques, and for good reason. However, understanding the problem statement of one design solution before applying it to another scenario should not be overlooked.

In closing, the decision to use a rubber bladder or not should be purely a weight decision the same way that you might decide to use alloy wheels over steel wheels. I can see no safety argument for mandating their use. Define a reasonable performance standard for puncture resistance of the container and call it good. Any backyard welder could easily build a metallic tank that will outperform the performance metric in FT-3. It will likely be heavier than a rubber bladder but will also be a fraction of the cost.
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Old January 16th, 2010, 8:21 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jefftrue View Post
......The argument that a rubber bladder will deform before it punctures is silly since the cell is not a pressure vessel; it has a vent on it. If the the volume of the cell gets reduced in a crash the fuel inside is free to blow out of the vent all over the place.....

NOT SO. If your fuel cell vent has a one way check valve on it as it SHOULD.
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Old January 17th, 2010, 10:26 AM   #25
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Default Plastic cell legal in CASC

FYI, the plastic cell by jazz in the previous post covered in aluminium is legal in Canada racing with CASC.

I have seen some in cars that crashed and rolled several times. No damage to the plastic cell at all. They don't degrade over time. Larger top makes it easy to replace foam inside cell/tank.


I understand they are still allowed to use Aluminium tanks in Australia.

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Old January 17th, 2010, 10:59 AM   #26
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Quote:
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NOT SO. If your fuel cell vent has a one way check valve on it as it SHOULD.
I'm not sure if this is an accurate statement. The valve I have* depends on gravity. As long as the car is upright, the vent valve is open and will allow air to escape.

Whether it will allow enough volume to pass, though, is another question.

* http://www.pegasusautoracing.com/pro....asp?RecID=899
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Old January 17th, 2010, 11:09 AM   #27
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Even if there isn't a check valve in the vent, there's no way a -6 hose is going to flow enough fuel/air to freely vent a rapidly compressed fuel cell.

I know fuel cells are expensive, but consider the huge fireballs that used to be commonplace in motor racing. The near elimination of those occurrences has no connection to modern fuel container regulations?

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Old January 17th, 2010, 11:23 AM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephen wilson View Post
Even if there isn't a check valve in the vent, there's no way a -6 hose is going to flow enough fuel/air to freely vent a rapidly compressed fuel cell.

I know fuel cells are expensive, but consider the huge fireballs that used to be commonplace in motor racing. The near elimination of those occurrences has no connection to modern fuel container regulations?

Steve
Isn't it the foam inside that prvents the fireball by preventing all the fuel to be dumped at once?
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Old January 17th, 2010, 11:47 AM   #29
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Is it the foam, the check valve, the inner bladder material, the double-wall construction, or the FIA sticker that makes a modern fuel cell safe? Don't know, maybe it's all of the above, or just A through D.
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Old January 17th, 2010, 4:25 PM   #30
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The foam helps, but so does the bladder, by being less likely to split open like a tin can, especially Aluminum containers, which are weaker at the seams.
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Old January 17th, 2010, 4:35 PM   #31
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Quote:
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Isn't it the foam inside that prvents the fireball by preventing all the fuel to be dumped at once?
The foam is primarily there to retard the frequency of the fuel moving in the cell relative to the acceleration forces upon the car. With six gallons in our cars its not as big a deal (36lbs or so) but with 35+ in IRL, ALMS or GrandAm cars it is a bigger issue. And it was probably especially important when Champ cars carried 80 gallons and they went to fuel cells back in the early 70s after the big fire that also drove them from gasoline to methanol.
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Old January 17th, 2010, 5:07 PM   #32
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For kicks, I searched for the FIA FT-3 specs, to see if they specified a bladder, or if they just specified the tests that must be passed. It is the former.

From: http://argent.fia.com/web/fia-public.nsf/D1451104A41C1994C1257604004459F8/$FILE/FT3-1999_Safety_tank.pdf

The flexible fuel bladder must be manufactured from
a reinforced material in polyamide, polyester, aramid
or equivalent impregnated and coated on both sides
with a fuel resistant elastomer.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 9:44 AM   #33
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Default Purpose of the foam

Liquid gasoline doesn't explode. You can throw a match into a bucket of gas, and the match will go out (don't try this on a hot day with still air). You don't dump liquid gas into your cylinders. You have a carb or injectors that introduce gas vapor--which makes a hell of a big explosion. The purpose of the foam is to keep gas from vaporizing in the top of the tank. It catches the tiny droplets and holds them in liquid form instead of allowing them to become vapor. This is why we have so few gas explosions. FYI, the foam takes up about 3% by volume and holds about 2%, so when you figure the size of your tank, remember that there will be at least 5% unusable fuel (plus whatever is below the pickup). If your cell doesn't have foam all the way up to the top, you should add some!

The metal can/bladder is supposed to reduce probability of rupture.

Most of the fires we have are due to fuel lines coming loose and spraying fuel onto the exhaust manifold.

I still question whether we really need fuel cells built to the standards required by SCCA, especially when they are so expensive and so many less expensive alternatives are available--or while we allow some other classes to run without fuel cells.

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Old January 19th, 2010, 8:04 PM   #34
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I looked extremely hard for an off the shelf alternative to the custom wedge cell bladder in my 85 VD when the original foam turned into a brown crumbly mess. No luck even with the ones sold by Summit Racing, etc. for econo drags, etc. Since mine is a Solo car I don't actually need a fuel cell and also don't need much capacity. Even off the shelf go kart cells and tanks I could find wouldn't work. Since the bladder was still sound and flexible, I finally just got new foam and stuffed pieces in that were cut to fit together reasonably well. Not easy due to the very small opening. I wanted the foam for both the assumed safety and the anti-slosh (think about the amount of 1.5 g transitions less than 1 second apart in a typical autocross slalom, etc.).

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Old January 21st, 2010, 11:49 PM   #35
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bladders get old........I watched a friend's weekend ruined when the 5 gallons of gas just made a big puddle on the ground in the middle of Saturday as he filled the car......he had been out on track earlier in the day with no leak and then the unexpected later! Though I have no leak in the 94 VD FC, the entire cell is being replaced during the coming rebuild......the thing's over 15 years old and I'd rather not have a weekend ruined the same way. Thanks for mentioning Eagle, I'll check them out.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 6:39 AM   #36
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Yeah, I lost most of a season the same way, due to the long lead time for a custom cell.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 8:33 AM   #37
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Default New, better, stronger, longer lasting materials?

I don't have proof, but a strong hunch that my cell failed because I had been using pump gas. (One of the attractions of the FB class was much lower fuel costs). I've since read that many metropoliton areas have ethanol blends, and our fuel cell bladders were never meant to stand up to that.

Let's ask these new approved manufacturers if the materials they use are different/better in this regard. That might make a big difference in which one I choose, and perhaps how long it will last.

Just something to think about ...

I'll send a question to Eagle.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 12:24 PM   #38
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I got a very fast (and informative) response from Jim Baxter, Eagle Fuel Cells.

Posted with his permission:

Russ,

ATL materials are typically coated with a basic polyester urethane. There are pluses and minuses. Polyurethane is very strong and durable on the outside layer. It resists scuffs, tears, and punctures better than the nitrile based materials. On the inside urethane coatings don't do well with alcohols and are susceptible to moisture and heat over time on the outside layer. The more alcohol content in the fuels the faster your urethane cell will deteriorate. The more heat and condensation your urethane cell is exposed to, the faster it will deteriorate. Typically urethane cells do great with pump gas and even some additives....but, taking measures to keep the urethane cells from heat, condensation and alcohols will give you a much better chance at longevity.

I have seen urethane cells come into the shop with 20 years on them and still going strong with no cracks. And I have seen urethane cells come in and they are already scrapped with only 3 years on them. The 'key' is avoiding the big 3 and you will do well over time. Unfortunately it is rare that we see a urethane cell perform well over time.

Urethane racing cells are made using a 'table top' construction where the coated fabric materials come to the factory in cured rolls. The rolls are cut into pieces then folded into place using hot irons much like folding an envelope and sealing it. As with an envelope, the urethane cell's corners are going to be the weak spots where leaks generally appear using this construction style. The plus side for the manufacturer is that it is faster, cheaper and easier to construct bladder cells this way.

Because our bladder cells are FAA regulated we must adhere to military specs in bladder cell construction principles and materials. Our bladder cells are made from a custom polymer compound inner liner material developed with the finest grades of nitrile rubber ingredients. I insisted that our chemist develop a 'recipe' where there are NO cheap 'fillers' or 'generic' ingredients. The ingredients are SPECIFIC high grade brands with no cheap 'overseas' fillers. This makes our nitrile rubber compound 3x the expense of our competitors but we get the excellent performance over time in return on investment. Our nitrile recipe surpasses the fuel resistance and performance of Viton for the specific fuels and oils used in aviation, racing, methanols as well as kerosene base, including additives with high levels of ethanol and other alcohol bases. Our coated fabric has a 'proprietary' coating using a custom blended polymer that we developed ourselves. It can withstand the harshest chemicals and fuels on the inside layer as well as withstand the challenges of moisture, heat and ozone damage on the outside layer, and all with 'excellent' and 'outstanding' grades across the board in our tests.

For our racing fuel bladders we use a 'seamless' multiple layer process including three layers of inner liner, a 'sandwiched' layer of senior ballistic nylon material covered with an outside layer of our custom blended aviation grade nylon material on the outside. All of our fuel cells are then 'AUTOCLAVED' vulcanized for 4 hours @ 300 degrees to eliminate inner channels and form strong 'chemical bonded' laps and seams. This racing cell is STRONG passing SFI and FIA tests for racing materials. It is also pliable and flexible, much more flexible than the competition. Our customers cannot believe how much easier our racing cell is to install and maintain. In manufacturing over 5000 custom race car fuel cells over 28 years in the business, I have not had ONE racing cell return because it wasn't durable or strong enough to withstand the rigors of racing competition.

The downside with nitrile rubbers and custom blends in this 'family' of polymers is resistance to some fuel additives with high levels of 'toluene' or 'MEK' as well as ozone damage. These issues can cause premature 'aging' and deterioration accelerates into stiffness then cracking in the material. As I stated above, we have addressed these issues by specifically customizing our polymers to address and eliminate these problems. Typical pump gas, avgas, all oils and additives in the alcohol/methanol family are handled much better by the nitriles than the urethanes.

Our fuel cells are made of superior materials and are completely HAND BUILT from start to finish using a sophisticated multi-layer process. This makes it more expensive to manufacture and more difficult to compete with the urethane manufacturers that have advantages of much lower overhead and easy construction methods. This being said, we find that we are typically lower than our competitors and we beat their turn around times by half (typically 3-5 weeks). We are a small company (15 employees) and (we) aren't looking to compete with ATL and Fuel Safe at their level of involvement. We simply make bladder cells and believe we make the best one available....anywhere. Our company mission and vision is EXCELLENCE, if we cannot achieve that, we will not take the job. We are hoping to pick up some custom racing fuel cell jobs and 'short run' production projects as we move forward.

Hope this answers a number of questions...

Regards,

Jim Baxter
President
Eagle Fuel Cells/Eagle Technologies ETC. Inc
715.479.6149 800.437.8732
Fax 715.479.6344
jim@eaglefuelcells.com
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 2:39 PM   #39
rickb99
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That ALL sounds really good except, for that red part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RussMcB View Post
.... The ingredients are SPECIFIC high grade brands with no cheap 'overseas' fillers. This makes our nitrile rubber compound 3x the expense of our competitors but we get the excellent performance over time in return on investment. Regards,

Jim Baxter
President
Eagle Fuel Cells/Eagle Technologies ETC. Inc
715.479.6149 800.437.8732
Fax 715.479.6344
jim@eaglefuelcells.com
Will be interesting to see what somebody pays (or is quoted) for a replacement bladder for some car.

If it turns out to be a 'resonable' price, it will indicate just how badly the 'other guys' have been ripping us off.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 2:53 PM   #40
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We have found their custome bladder prices to be quite competitive. They only supply the bladder, foam and closuere plate/ ring. You will need to fabricate the container and perhaps the vent fittings / filler necks / filler cap yourself.
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