Volvo Trucks became the first North American manufacturer to announce plans to utilize a new, clean-burning alternative fuel to power its heavy-duty trucks. Dimethyl ether (DME) is a non-toxic, non-carcinogenic fuel that can be made from a variety of domestic, sustainable feedstocks and is currently used as a propellant in many household and cosmetic products. The announcement was made at the California State Capitol.
Volvo invested in the DME technology for the North American market because of the numerous benefits DME offers as an alternative to diesel fuel. DME mirrors the exceptional performance qualities and energy efficiency of diesel while also delivering a number of excellent environmental properties – including the fact that it produces no soot. The company plans to commercialize DME-powered vehicles in 2015.
DME can be made from a variety of organic sources, including biogas from food and animal waste, wastewater treatment facilities and landfills. When produced from biomass or biogas, DME can reduce CO2 by up to 95 percent compared to diesel.
DME can also be produced from North America’s abundant supply of natural gas, and therefore has the potential to significantly reduce energy dependency. Converting natural gas to DME is an innovative way to address many of the distribution, storage and fueling challenges otherwise presented by natural gas as a heavy truck fuel.
“We are proud to be a leader in providing alternative transportation solutions to the market,” said Goran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales and Marketing. “It is clear that DME technology shows great potential for North America and allows Volvo to further its commitment to both our customers and the environment.”
The DME announcement is the latest example of Volvo’s ongoing commitment to environmental responsibility and developing alternative fuel drivelines. In 1972, Volvo first established a formal position on the environment, and in 1985, Volvo made environmental care a core value.
In 2007, Volvo showcased in Brussels seven commercial vehicles powered by seven different CO2-neutral fuels, one of which was DME. The company demonstrated these vehicles in U.S. operation in 2008, in conjunction with the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC).
Nyberg was joined at the California State Capitol by Cliff Rechtschaffen, senior energy and environmental advisor to California Gov. Jerry Brown, and by executives from Oberon Fuels, which has developed skid-mounted, small-scale production units that can convert various feedstocks into DME.
“It’s exciting to have a global leader like Volvo Trucks partnering with California companies to develop innovative technology in the Golden State,” said Kish Rajan, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). “The State of California continues to attract the most dynamic companies in the world and GO-Biz looks forward to helping Volvo and Oberon maximize the benefits of DME as a commercial transportation fuel.”
Volvo’s DME technology will be available in a Volvo D13 engine, the top-selling heavy-duty engine in the world. The DME-powered vehicles will join a line-up that already includes Volvo VNM and VNL models that can be specified to run on compressed or liquefied natural gas. The company will also introduce its own proprietary LNG compression-ignition engine – North America’s first fully integrated natural gas solution – in Volvo VNL models next year.
“With the addition of DME-powered vehicles to our alternative fuel lineup, Volvo will offer the industry’s most comprehensive approach to the developing North American alternative fuel market,” Nyberg said.