Volvo Trucks announced Thursday it plans to begin limited production in 2015 of dimethyl ether (DME) powered heavy-duty commercial vehicles, the first manufacturer to do so. It's teaming up with Safeway and Oberon Fuels for a test funded with $500,000 from California's San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
It will be the second customer field test conducted by Volvo Trucks in the U.S.
DME mirrors the performance qualities and energy efficiency of diesel, and burns clean without producing any soot, Volvo says. It can be made from a variety of sustainable domestic sources, as well as 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, Volvo says.
“With the addition of DME-powered vehicles to our previously announced CNG and LNG offering, Volvo’s Blue Power line-up will offer the industry’s most comprehensive approach to the developing North American alternative fuel market,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales and Marketing. “We believe the fuel shows great potential for the North American market, and when produced from biomass, it can provide a 95% reduction in CO2 compared to diesel."
Volvo’s DME technology will be available in a Volvo D13 engine, and the company’s I-Shift automated manual transmission will be standard on DME-powered trucks.
Two DME-powered Volvo VNL models equipped with a Volvo D13 engine will run in the San Joaquin Valley region of California in Safeway’s commercial operations using Oberon-produced DME.
Oberon is the first company to announce plans to commercialize DME fuel production in North America, and has developed skid-mounted, small-scale production units that cost-effectively convert biogas and natural gas to DME.
The addition of DME-powered vehicles expands Volvo’s alternative fuel product range, which already includes compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered Volvo VNM and VNL model daycabs.
Volvo also will introduce its proprietary D13-LNG (liquefied natural gas) engine – North America’s first fully integrated natural gas solution – in VNL model daycabs and sleepers next year.
Learn more in this video from Volvo and Oberon:
Senior Editor Tom Berg offers more in-depth insight from Thursday's event: Volvo Thinks the Fuel of the Future is DME – and It’s Almost Here