Behind the Welds - FIA Fuel Cell Fabrication


FIA FT3/3.5/5 Fuel Cells

Racing fuel cells are designed for the storage of fuel in competition vehicles. In general, a racing fuel cell has a rigid outer shell and flexible inner lining to minimize the potential for punctures in the event of a collision or other mishap resulting in serious damage to the vehicle. It is filled with an open-cell foam core to prevent explosion of vapor in the empty portion of the tank and to minimize sloshing of fuel during competition that may unbalance the vehicle or cause inadequate fuel delivery to the motor.

They are approved by FIA with their FT3, FT3.5, and FT5 ratings. The design meets the minimum requirements of the FT3 standard whose objective is to have fuel safe cell that resist explosion in case of impact or rollover of the vehicle. All three standards lay out the same requirements for materials, construction, and testing. The only difference between them is in the strength of the bladder material. The tests are the same, but the certification is based on the results.

FT3 is the lowest level, requiring a minimum of 450 pounds of tensile and puncture strength. FT3.5 is the middle, requiring at least 1000 pounds. The highest level, FT5, requires that the material withstand a full 2000 pounds of tearing and puncturing force. FT5 is required in F1 for obvious reasons. SCCA requires at least FT3 (FT3.5 and FT5 are also acceptable).


Fuel Cell Quality

At its most basic level, manufacturing quality is conformance to specifications. Quality of design and conformance to specifications provide the fundamental basis for managing operations to produce quality products. Aluminum is undoubtedly one of the more difficult materials to weld. However, when it’s done correctly it can make your project last longer, reduce weight, eliminate distortion and make some really beautiful welds. 

Generally, two processes are used for aluminum welding: GTAW (TIG) and GMAW (MIG). Most welders in the business will say TIG is the better option for welding aluminum because it allows for better results on lighter gauge materials. When done correctly, TIG welding aluminum can produce quality welds. This process also allows more control over tricky welding variables like heat, penetration and overall aesthetics. In addition to those benefits, aluminum TIG welding makes working with thinner materials a breeze!

In this short series, we give a behind the scenes look at our fabrication process of TIG welding aluminum into the FIA FT3 Fuel Cells we supply for many applications. You’ll see one of our skilled welders fabricating several different FIA FT3 Fuel Cells.