Volvo's European Bio-DME project, which aims to assess whether there is a market for Bio-DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) for commercial vehicles, shows promise, the company says.
Ten Volvo Bio-DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) trucks have now been in regular operation since last autumn.
Ten Volvo Bio-DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) trucks have now been in regular operation since last autumn.
Halfway through the two-year project, the preliminary results show that Bio-DME already functions in daily commercial operations. If Bio-DME were to replace diesel, Volvo says, it would CO2 emissions by 95%.

Together with a number of partners including Bio-DME producer Chemrec and fuel distributor Preem, Volvo has developed a transport system that encompasses the entire chain from production and distribution of Bio-DME to operation in Volvo trucks in a number of haulage firms.

Ten Volvo Bio-DME trucks have now been in regular operation since last autumn. The first of the 10 trucks has already broken 62,500 miles, and the trucks have covered almost 250,000 miles.

"This is the first time Bio-DME is being used as a vehicle fuel on a large scale, and following the first evaluation of the field test we can see that the Bio-DME trucks function very well on the road, way exceeding our expectations," says Per Salomonsson, project manager of alternative fuels at Volvo. "The technology is reliable and the entire process is characterized by energy efficiency, from production and distribution all the way to the vehicles themselves."

PostNord and DHL are two of the haulage firms that are participating in the project. Both aim to drastically cut their CO2 emissions by 2020, and for both these companies participation in the field test was a natural move.

"Our drivers are very pleased," says Henrik Boding, environmental affairs manager for the Logistics business area at PostNord. "They report that it is at least as easy to run on Bio-DME as it is on conventional diesel fuel. This is an entirely new technology, but we have nevertheless experienced very few technical problems and, what is more, the trucks run much more quietly with Bio-DME in the tank."

Preem has established the four refueling stations in Sweden, in Stockholm, Goteborg, Jonkoping and Pitea, to ensure that the trucks can run in regular commercial operations.

The biofuel in this project is made from black liquor, a byproduct of pulp production, at the Chemrec gasification plant in Pitea. The production system works smoothly and the possibility of delivering the fuel on a large scale depends to a considerable extent on the incentives available for renewable fuels.

"Bio-DME can also be made from other renewable raw materials, and we feel this is a vehicle fuel with a great future," says Per Salomonsson. "We've developed technology that makes it possible to use the fuel in commercial operations. The biggest challenge in the future is to establish a market and an infrastructure for a new vehicle fuel, and this requires investment. Here society's decision-makers play an important role in creating the essential preconditions by taking long-term decisions and developing incentives."

The field test will continue until the end of the year, followed by an evaluation to chart the viability of a future market for Bio-DME.

The other haulage firms participating in the study are J-Trans, Broderna Lindqvist Akeri, BDX Foretagen AB, and Ragn-Sells.

The Swedish Energy Agency and the EU's Seventh Framework Programme support the project. In addition to Volvo Trucks, Chemrec and Preem, the other participants in the project are Delphi, ETC, Haldor Topsoe and Total.