Canadian Manufacturing

Volvo unveils alternative to natural gas fuel for big rigs

Volvo announced plans to begin limited production of dimethyl ether-powered vehicles in 2015.

Sacremento, Calif.—Volvo Trucks plans to commercialize its dimethyl ether (DME)-powered heavy-duty commercial vehicles in North America.

Part of the manufacturer’s “Blue Power” alternative fuel strategy, Volvo revealed ongoing U.S. customer field testing of DME trucks, and demonstrated the technology after an announcement at the California State Capitol in Sacremento.

Volvo says DME’s high cetane levels exhibit performance and energy efficiency similar to diesel while producing no soot. The gas packages densely enough to support long range transport or add vocational equipment to the frame. It does not require cryogenic temperatures, rather it is handled and stored like propane, with tank pressures of only 75 psi (vs. 3,600 psi for compressed natural gas.

Volvo announced plans to begin limited production in 2015 of DME-powered vehicles.

The company makes all heavy trucks bound for the North American market at the 1.6-million-square-foot New River Valley Plant in Dublin, VA.

DME technology will be available in a Volvo D13 engine, the top-selling heavy-duty engine in the world, and the company’s I-Shift automated manual transmission will be standard on DME-powered trucks, which will join a line-up including natural gas-powered Volvo VNM and VNL model daycabs.

Volvo says it has logged extensive customer field tests of the technology in real-world applications, both in the U.S. and in Europe, resulting in 650,000 on-highway miles.

The Volvo Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks, buses, construction equipment and marine and industrial engines. It employs about 115,000 people, has production facilities in 19 countries and posted 2012 sales of $45 billion.

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