Volvo test truck runs on methane gas and diesel
Volvo test truck runs on methane gas and diesel. Click image to enlarge

Göteborg, Sweden – Volvo Trucks will begin field testing of a new heavy-duty diesel engine fuelled by a mixture of methane gas and diesel.

The engine meets the strict Euro 5 exhaust emissions standards introduced in 2009. The tests will start in Sweden and the U.K. in 2010.

“This unique technology allows us to combine the advantages of gas with the diesel engine’s high efficiency rating, which is about 30 to 40 per cent superior to that of the spark plug engine,” said Lars Mårtensson, environmental director of Volvo Trucks. “As a result, this truck consumes considerably less energy than traditional gas trucks do.”

Volvo Trucks presented seven drivable demonstration trucks adapted for various biofuels in August 2007. Following further analysis, the company is now focusing on two renewable fuels: dimethyl ether (DME) and a combination of methane gas and diesel.

“Methane gas is by far the most accessible fuel as an alternative to diesel,” Mårtensson said. “There are larger reserves of natural gas than oil. But above all, production of climate-neutral biogas is gaining momentum in many countries, which solves the most urgent problem, reducing CO2 emissions.”

Methane in a spark-ignited engine usually has a range of only 150 to 200 km, but Volvo Trucks solved the problem by combining methane gas with diesel, and using the fuel in a diesel engine. This increases the operational range by over 50 per cent. When a liquefied gas is used, the range will double due to its higher energy density. If the gas runs out, the truck can continue operating on diesel alone. Volvo said this is unique to its technology, and makes the system a realistic option for customers in areas where the gas distribution network is underdeveloped.

Volvo Trucks is working to minimize the proportion of diesel, and expects to be able to run on up to 80 per cent methane gas once the technology is refined and tested. The 2010 field tests will start with a mixture containing up to 70 per cent methane gas. Calculated over the whole fuel chain, from production to use on roads, the new technology could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 per cent in the long term compared to traditional diesel operation, if biogas and 100 per cent biodiesel are used. Methane gas is currently a relatively cheap fuel in many markets, the company said.

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