Volvo boosts bio-fuel focus
Volvo Trucks in Sweden says it is now taking the next concrete step towards neutralising carbon dioxide in road transport.
Within the framework of a broad-based joint project, field tests will be conducted in Sweden with 14 trucks running on Bio-DME – a fuel that combines a low environmental imprint with high energy efficiency.
The project follows on from an initiative in August 2007 when Volvo unveiled seven demo trucks, each running on a different type of bio-fuel including Di-Methyl-Ether, or DME. According to Volvo, this initiative showed the company has the technical solutions for efficiently running a diesel engine on virtually all existing renewable fuels.
In this latest project with partners including the European Union, the Swedish Energy Agency, fuel companies and the transport industry, Volvo Trucks is investigating the potential for large-scale investment in DME produced from biomass, a fuel known as Bio-DME.
For its part, Volvo is participating in the project by contributing 14 FH trucks that will be tested by selected customers at four locations in different parts of Sweden between 2010 and 2012.
From a facility beside a pulp plant, the project will produce four tonnes of Bio-DME per day. The raw material used is black liquor, an energy-rich, highly viscous by-product of the pulp industry which, through gasification of the biomass in the black liquor, produces a particularly clean and energy-efficient fuel.
"From the holistic viewpoint, Bio-DME is one of the most promising second-generation bio-fuels,” says Lars Mårtensson, environmental affairs director at Volvo Trucks. Bio-DME provides both high energy efficiency and low emissions of greenhouse gases. We value these two properties particularly highly as we analyse various possible alternative fuels."
Bio-DME as a fuel in a diesel engine is said to provide a high efficiency rating and lower noise levels. In comparison with diesel fuel, Bio-DME generates 95 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions and furthermore, the combustion process produces very low emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides. All this makes Bio-DME an ideal fuel for diesel engines, according to Volvo.
Field tests are planned to start in 2010 and will involve inspections and evaluations of the fuel, truck technology, customer perceptions and distribution systems to provide answers as to whether Bio-DME may emerge as one of the fuels that can partially reduce dependence on diesel oil.
The project will continue for a specific period and its evaluation as well as the long-term decisions of the authorities will determine whether full-scale industrial production will become reality. According to a Volvo statement, the challenges facing new fuels lie primarily in taking a long-term view, producing sufficiently large quantities of bio-fuels, and handling distribution via a suitably large number of filling stations.
"The field test will give us valuable new insight into the potential of Bio-DME as a future vehicle fuel,” said Volvo Trucks President and CEO, Staffan Jufors. “The project still requires many tests, larger-scale fuel production and an extended infrastructure. And, perhaps most of all, clear guidelines from the authorities on how they view the fuel."