Tachoblog’s back with a scoop; in 2010, Volvo Trucks will be the first truck manufacturer to start conducting comprehensive field tests involving Bio-DME.

This is a biofuel that generates very low carbon dioxide emissions. In the long term it has the potential to replace 50 percent of today’s diesel use for transport operations in Europe.

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The field test is being made possible through a broad-based joint project involving, among others, the EU, the Swedish Energy Agency, fuel companies and the transport industry. The aim is to assess the potential of DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) as a vehicle fuel.

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DME that is produced from biomass, known as Bio-DME, has both high energy efficiency and low greenhouse gas emissions all the way from the source to the wheel. The raw material used is black liquor, an energy-rich, highly viscous by-product of the pulp industry. With Bio-DME instead of diesel as a fuel, carbon dioxide emissions are cut by 95 percent.

Volvo Trucks is participating in the project by contributing 14 Volvo FH trucks that will be tested by selected customers at four locations in different parts of Sweden between 2010 and 2012. Fuel company Preem will build filling stations so the trucks can be used in regular regional and local operations. The first field-test truck is being unveiled today in Piteå, where the production of Bio-DME will take place.

Volvo’s DME truck uses a regular D13 engine which, after some modifications to the tank system, injection system and engine management software, functions perfectly together with the biofuel.

“Behind the wheel, it’s business as usual. Performance and driving properties are exactly the same as in the diesel variant. The difference and the major benefit with Bio-DME lies in its low carbon dioxide emissions,” Mats Franzén, Product Manager Engines at Volvo Trucks told Tachoblog.

Compared with a conventional engine, Bio-DME as a fuel in a diesel engine provides the same high efficiency rating along with a lower noise level. The combustion process produces very low emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides. Therefore, a simpler system can be used for after-treatment of the exhaust gases. The engine can also provide higher torque at start-up and thus improve driveability. All told, this makes Bio-DME an ideal fuel for diesel engines.

DME is filled in liquid form and stored in pressurised tanks in a leak-proof system. The pressure keeps the fuel in liquid form all the way to injection. Common rail technology is used to create the optimum high injection pressure. The lower energy content of DME, just over half that of diesel oil, is compensated by fitting larger tanks.

Speaking to Tachoblog, Claes Nilsson, President Volvo Trucks Europe Division. “We are noting immense interest in alternative fuels among our customers and we feel that Bio-DME offers considerable potential. The field test will last three years and the subsequent evaluation will determine whether the project will lead to full-scale industrial production.”