|Field trials involving fourteen dimethyl ether (DME)-powered Volvo trucks will begin in the next 18 months.
Volvo companies Volvo Powertrain, 3P and Volvo Technology will field test 14 trucks equipped with Volvo’s third-generation, 13-liter DME-fueled (dimethyl ether) engines in Sweden beginning in late 2009 to early 2010 as part of a project owned by Volvo Powertrain and funded by the Swedish Energy Agency and the European 7th framework program. (Earlier post.)
The tests are part of a wider €28.5 million (US$45 million) European project which covers the entire technology chain from biomass to fuel and also includes distribution and fuel stations for DME, a fuel produced through the gasification of biomass or raw fossil materials. The gas that is formed, synthesis gas, is then catalyzed to produce DME.
DME, with good characteristics as a compression-ignition fuel, offers diesel efficiency, but with low soot emissions and low NOx with EGR. The fuel also has challenges, including lower energy density than diesel, low viscosity, poor lubricity, and polymer compatibility.
The field tests, which will take place in take place in Gothenburg, Stockholm, Piteå and Växjö, will see the vehicles leased out to trucking companies for use in normal operations. The tests will run until early 2012.
The Volvo Powertrain facility in Malmö, Sweden, which previously has done development work on natural gas and LPG engines, is testing the third-generation 13-liter DME engines. The facility is working with prototypes for both 9-liter and 13-liter DME engines, and is currently testing the new fuel system for the 13-liter units.
|Volvo second-generation, 9-liter DME engine. Click to enlarge.
Volvo’s primary work is with the fuel-injection system because of the different handling characteristics of the gas compared to diesel. Volvo’s second-generation DME engine used a low-pressure, common rail system, with an injection pressure less than 20% that of an equivalent diesel engine, supported by a special fuel pump and sealing materials.
Each of the 14 engines for use in the test will be rebuilt at Malmö and tested there before placed the trucks in Gothenburg to run under normal conditions, said Per Salomonsson of Volvo Powertrain, who is leading the project.
|DME produced from biomass offers the most cost-effective avoidance of CO2 of transportation fuels under consideration, according to Volvo. (Data shown is for light-duty vehicles.) Click to enlarge.
In June 2006, the Swedish Energy Agency granted AB Volvo SEK 62 million (US$10.3 million) in support for development of third-generation DME technology. (Earlier post.) DME produced from biomass offers the most cost-effective avoidance of CO2 of alternative transportation fuels under consideration, according to Volvo.
In 2007, Volvo staged a demonstration of “seven trucks powered by seven different alternative fuels” in Stockholm, Brussels and Washington DC that highlighted the second-generation, 9-liter DME engine.
In the plans we are currently making we will continue to do the application work on the engine in the test cell and it is also in the plan that we will rebuild the engine from diesel to DME here in Malmö. We will do as much as we can in the lab while the final adjustments for drivability need to be done in the vehicle. It is another fuel, another fuel injection system and another storage system, but for the driver it should not be any different.—Lars Sundin, general manager for Volvo Powertrain Malmö