As the latest step in its “Blue Power” alternative fuel strategy, Volvo Trucks will develop dimethyl ether (DME)-powered Volvo D13 engines in North America and will begin limited production in 2015.
Volvo, which has already conducted 650,000 on-highway miles of customer field tests of DME technology in the U.S. and Europe, also announced it will partner with Safeway Inc. and Oberon Fuels to test DME-powered vehicles. Using $500,000 in funding from California’s San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD), two DME-powered Volvo VNL models will run in Safeway’s operation on Oberon-produced DME. Oberon has developed skid-mounted, small-scale production units that convert biogas and natural gas to DME.
“Safeway is very interested in alternative fuels, and we currently run Volvo trucks in our fleet,” said Tom Nartker, vice president of transportation at Safeway. “We decided to test Volvo DME technology in our fleet because it is a natural fit with our sustainability strategy.”
DME, which is non-toxic and is already used as an aerosol propellant in cosmetics and other household products, can be made from a variety of sustainable biomass feedstocks like food, animal and agricultural waste, as well as from natural gas. Its high cetane number delivers performance and efficiency comparable to diesel, and DME packages densely enough to support long range operations or to allow room for frame-mounted vocational equipment.
DME is a compression ignition fuel like diesel. The fuel is handled and stored like propane, with tank pressures of only 75 PSI. When produced from biomass or biogas, DME can provide up to a 95% CO2 reduction compared to diesel.
“With the addition of DME-powered vehicles to our previously announced CNG and LNG offerings, Volvo’s Blue Power line-up will offer a comprehensive approach to the developing North American alternative fuel market,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales and Marketing. “It is clear that DME technology shows great potential for North America, and allows Volvo to further its commitment to our customers and the environment.”