– Future vision of carbon dioxide neutral transport
Carbon dioxide neutral vehicles are powered by fuel produced from renewable raw materials such as biomass. Vehicles that operate on renewable fuels do not add extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Volvo Group is actively exploring and developing technologies that operate on renewable or alternative fuels.
Need for reduced dependency on fossil fuel
Burning fossil fuels contributes to raising the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The supply of easily accessible and cheap crude oil is diminishing, which will lead to higher fuel prices. More than 95 percent of the energy resources used in the transport sector today is oil-based, hence there is a significant potential for finding commercially viable alternatives.
Reducing dependency on fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas by increasing the use of renewable fuels makes business and environmental sense.
Research on renewable fuels
Volvo Group has conducted research on seven renewable fuels assessed from seven aspects and from a well-to-wheel perspective. All seven renewable fuels have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transports.
It is crucial that these fuels can be produced using sustainable methods, for instance the production of raw material/biomass. The best solution in the short term is to mix renewable fuels that are currently available with today’s fossil fuels. We believe that no renewable fuel alone will replace oil globally; different regional solutions will be used based on regional prerequisites. Since we know that biomass will be a limited resource, it is very important to choose the most energy-efficient alternative from a well-to-wheel perspective.
Assessment of sustainability features of fuel categories
Transit to renewable fuels requires collaboration
The diesel engine is one of the most efficient energy converters around. A major advantage of the diesel engine is that it can be adapted to run on a wide range of renewable fuels.
The transit to a low-carbon society requires collaboration to gain broader acceptance. We have the technology and know-how to develop carbon neutral transports.
Already in 2007 we presented seven trucks which can be operated on seven different renewable fuels. All of these can all be driven without net emissions of carbon emissions.
The purpose of showcasing these vehicles was to create discussions with different actors in society. Cooperation between vehicle manufacturers, politicians, government agencies and fuel producers is necessary. For example, a functioning infrastructure for the production and distribution of new fuels needs to be developed to be make this viable.
BioDME – one future alternative
Volvo Group views DME (dimethylether) as one of the strong future alternatives to fossil fuel; it is energy-efficient and has proven a lower environmental impact.
DME is a gas that is easy to liquefy and transport. It also has high cetane number, no sulfur and ultra-clean combustion properties. It has considerable potential for use as an automotive fuel when combined with renewable and low-carbon fuels.
DME can be derived from many sources, including renewable materials (biomass, waste and agricultural products) and fossil fuels (natural gas and coal). DME produced from biomass, known as BioDME, is highly energy-efficient, cost competitive and emitts low greenhouse gas emissions all the way from the source to the wheel.
Proceeding with collaboration on BioDME
Along with other actors, we are proceeding with a project covering the full chain for the production of renewable fuel. The BioDME project is a joint venture to demonstrate the full technology chain involved in the production and distribution of DME from biomass to its use as vehicle fuel.
The project includes building a pilot facility, distribution and filling stations, fuel specification and project evaluation. Volvo Group is coordinating the project and develops demonstration vehicles for field tests between 2010 and 2012. Two of the vehicles were handed over to customers for field tests in early 2011.
The field test is being made possible through a broad-based joint project involving, among others, the EU, the Swedish Energy Agency, fuel companies and the transport industry. The aim is to assess the potential of DME as a vehicle fuel.
Use of Bio-DME instead of diesel will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 95 percent.
Continued progress combining methane and diesel
Volvo Trucks is the first manufacturer to have an efficient diesel engine fuelled by a mixture of methane gas and diesel. A diesel engine is 30–40 percent more efficient than many gas-operated engines on the market. About 50–75 percent of the diesel can be substituted by methane. The benefit of methane diesel technology is that methane fuel is already available as a fuel for vehicles.
Calculated across the entire fuel chain, from production to use on roads, this new technology could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 70 percent in the long term compared to traditional diesel operation, if biogas and biodiesel are used.
Trucks, buses, construction equipment and industrial engines equipped with methane diesel technology were field tested in 2010. In Sweden, the field tests coincided with the inauguration with Sweden’s first public filling station for liquefied methane gas in Gothenburg.
There were previously only filling stations for compressed natural gas, but when liquefied this halves the space needed for fuel tanks. This makes it an attractive alternative for heavy-duty vehicles, as trucks running on liquid gas combined with methane diesel technology have a driving range that is up to four times longer than most traditional gas trucks, which makes them somewhat dependent on the diesel distribution factor.
First order for methane-diesel technology buses
Volvo Buses is participating in a demonstration project for methane-diesel technology using buses for regional traffic and trucks. A diesel engine is used with diesel process efficiency. The engine can run on diesel alone or on both diesel and biogas or natural gas. The diesel functions as a type of ignition for the methane gas, which is the primary fuel.
The Swedish Energy Agency is contributing nearly SEK 24 M to the project.
Volvo Group received its first order from Vårgårdabuss in 2010 for buses that operate on both biogas and diesel. The order includes eleven intercity bus, and will be put into operation in Sweden in July 2011.
The first biogas-fueled snow sweeper
In partnership with Schmidt and Swedavia, Volvo Group is involved in field test with the world’s first biogas-fuelled snow sweeper.
The snow sweeper is equipped with two nine-liter Volvo engines fueled by biogas combined with conventional diesel. This enables replacement with biodiesel, ultimately making the operation carbon dioxide neutral.