Volvo displays renewable-fuel trucks

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In Europe, Volvo Group has produced seven demonstration trucks, equivalent to U.S. Class 8 heavy-duty trucks, each of which runs on a different renewable fuel.

The seven fuels are biodiesel, biogas, a biodiesel/biogas mix, dimethyl ether, ethanol/methanol, synthetic diesel and a biogas/hydrogen-gas mix. Because all these fuels are made from renewable raw materials, unlike fossil fuels, their combustion adds no net carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, Volvo says.

“Volvo is part of the climate problem, but today we have shown that carbon dioxide-free transports are a possibility and that we, as a vehicle manufacturer, both can and will be part for the solution to the climate issue,” says Leif Johansson, chief executive officer of the Volvo Group.

First exhibited Wednesday, Aug. 29, in Stockholm, the Volvo FM trucks are equipped with modified 9-liter Volvo diesel engines.

“The diesel engine is an extremely efficient energy converter that is perfectly suited to many different renewable fuels, liquid or gaseous,” says Jan-Eric Sundgren, Volvo Group senior vice president for public and environmental affairs.

Here’s more information on the seven fuels used in the demonstration trucks:

  • Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils and can be blended with conventional diesel in any proportion, though trucks can run on B100, or 100 percent biodiesel. Rapeseed oil and sunflower seed oil are the most common raw materials in Europe.
  • Biogas is a gaseous fuel made of methane, a gas generated by landfills and sewage treatment plants.
  • Biogas plus biodiesel requires separate tanks and injection systems. A small percentage (10 percent) of biodiesel, or synthetic diesel, is used to achieve compression ignition. The biogas in this alternative is in a cooled and liquid form that increases its range.
  • Dimethyl ether or DME is a gas, produced from biomass, that is handled in liquid form under low pressure.
  • Ethanol and methanol work equally well in the same system. Methanol is produced from biomass, ethanol from the fermentation of crops rich in sugar and starch, such as corn.
  • Synthetic diesel is a mixture of synthetically manufactured hydrocarbons produced through the gasification of biomass. Like biodiesel, synthetic diesel can be mixed with conventional diesel fuel without problems.
  • Hydrogen gas plus biogas requires the hydrogen gas to be mixed in small volumes with compressed biogas (8 percent volume). The hydrogen gas can be produced through the gasification of biomass or the electrolysis of water.
  • Although heavy-duty trucks clearly can run on any of these alternative fuels, the supply of these fuels is significantly limited, with no large-scale production or distribution networks in place, Volvo noted.