The new inflator went into production earlier this year, in a passenger-side airbag for a European manufacturer of premium-brand vehicles. The name of the OEM has not been disclosed.
Instead of pyrotechnic substances, the new inflator uses hydrogen and oxygen with inert gas to inflate the airbag. As a result, there are no waste particles from the combustion and no effluent gases – not even carbon dioxide. The only side product is regular vapor which, when cooled off, becomes just a few drops of water. This makes the inflator very environmentally friendly, Autoliv says.
In addition, the mixing of the hydrogen and the oxygen takes place in the textile cushion of the airbag, instead of in a steel vessel as in traditional airbag inflators, which allows for a thinner and lighter steel container and reduces weight and costs.
The weight reduction depends on the original inflator but is approximately 20% compared to most traditional inflators for airbags on the front passenger side. If only a quarter of Autoliv's own needs for such passenger airbag inflators will be converted to the new hydrogen/oxygen technology, the Company would save 1,000 tons of steel every year. Additionally, the vehicles with the new inflator would reduce their fuel consumption by more than 8 million liters over the expected life time of the vehicles.
The new hydrogen/oxygen inflator, called APG (for Autoliv Passenger-inflator Gas), will primarily be used in frontal airbags for the front passenger side where higher gas quantities are required than for other airbags in a vehicle. The next step of this technology is to develop a dual-stage version of the inflator to be able to adjust the gas flow to the severity of the crash and to other parameters. This will be done using two independent ignitors and varying the time lapse a few milliseconds between the ignitions.