Volvo Trucks will begin field tests in Europe next year of heavy trucks powered by bioDME

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Volvo Trucks will begin field tests in Europe next year of heavy trucks powered by bioDME, a biomass fuel the company said has long-term potential to replace 50% of diesel now used in European trucking.

Volvo’s Sept. 18 announcement said the tests, which will use a 13-liter engine, are a joint effort that includes the European Union and transport companies that want to gauge the potential of DME — di-methyl ether — to power vehicles.

Volvo said bioDME as a fuel could reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 95% for a combination of high energy efficiency and reduced emissions. Black liquor, a by-product of the pulp and paper industry, is the material that is used to create bioDME.

“Behind the wheel, it’s business as usual,” said Mats Franzén, product manager, engines, at Volvo Trucks. “Performance and driving properties are exactly the same as in the diesel variant. The difference and the major benefit with bioDME lies in its low carbon dioxide emissions.”

A total of 14 Volvo FH Euro 5 trucks will use the fuel during tests between 2010 and 2012 at four locations in different parts of Sweden. A standard 440-horsepower D13 engine, with modifications to engine-management computer software and the injection system, is being used for the test. Supplier Delphi worked with Volvo to modify the injectors.

“The field test will last three years and the subsequent evaluation will determine whether the project will lead to full-scale industrial production,” said Claes Nilsson, president, Volvo Trucks Europe Division. “We feel that bioDME offers considerable potential.”

The first field-test truck was displayed on Sept. 18 in Piteå, the Swedish city where bioDME will be produced.

Successful tests could lead to bioDME being used to replace diesel on 50% or more of European trucks by 2030, the company said.

Preem, a Swedish fuel company, is building fueling stations, allowing the test vehicles to be used for regular service in both local and regional markets.

An added benefit of biomass, Volvo said, is low emission of particulates and nitrogen oxides, permitting the use of a less complex system for aftertreatment of exhaust gases.

Higher torque is obtained at start-up by using biomass stored in a pressurized, liquid form. Because it has lower energy content than diesel oil, larger tanks will be used on the test vehicle, Volvo said.

Volvo said DME is a gas with properties that allow transformation to a liquid at low pressure. It is most widely used now in spray cans.

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