Volvo Trucks plans to conduct field tests involving BioDME, a biofuel that generates low carbon dioxide emissions, to assess the potential of dimethyl ether as a vehicle fuel
. The testing, which will begin in 2010, is part of a joint project with the EU and the Swedish Energy Agency, among others.

DME, made from a variety of renewable materials and fossil fuels, burns soot-free, produces almost no greenhouse gases upon combustion and is very energy efficient. With a high cetane number (the measure of combustion of diesel fuel under compression) and with no particle formation during combustion, DME provides a very cost effective way to meet stringent exhaust emission targets. According to Volvo, BioDME has the potential to replace 50 percent of today's diesel used for transport operations in Europe, and can cut carbon dioxide emissions by 95 percent.

Volvo will contribute 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 Volvo DME truck is equipped with a regular D13 engine which after some modifications to the tank system, injection system and engine management software, functions together with the biofuel.

"Behind the wheel, it's business as usual," said Mats Franzén, product manager of engines at Volvo Trucks. "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."

BioDME 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 aftertreatment of the exhaust gases. The engine can also provide higher torque at start-up and thus improve drivability.

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

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