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Volvo to Field Test 14 Trucks with Third-Generation, 13-Liter DME Engines

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



Henry Gibson

DME is a great fuel for many reasons. There is not enough biomass,of any type however, to fuel a large percentage of the trucks of the world. This was proven when England was burning wood and nearly deforested the whole country so that laws had to be passed to preserve enough wood for shipbuilding. Iceland, also, once had forests and wound up with few trees. Cars and trucks can be built to collect the CO2 that they produce and drop it off at filling stations like so much used oil. These vehicles can be made cheaper than fuel cell vehicles. Electricity from nuclear powerplants can be used to make DME from the CO2. But before that Norwegian gas can be used to make DME and even COAL.

It is now time to start considering what methods we will use to electrify the freeways. First the commuter lanes of California should have conductors put in the pavement. Many politicians are trying to cut CO2 emissions without realizing that the higher costs of energy will kill people who will freeze and starve and won't visit doctors even for curable diseases.

Solar and Wind electricity costs two to ten times more than Coal and Nuclear because of capital costs. There is enough Uranium in the ocean to fuel all of civilization for thousands, if not, thousands of thousands of years. There is enough uranium, sitting in used fuel storage at nuclear power plants, to fuel US power for a hundred years. CANDU reactors could burn some of it tomorrow without any further research or chemical reprocessing. Just form it into the right shape and put it into the reactor. Some of it now could be put right back into the reactor that it was taken from for a few more kilowatt hours.

Did your ancestor worry about you when he ate the last dodo bird or stellar sea cow or passenger pidgeon. Solar energy can be economically used for heating water and even houses, but solar cells are getting most of the attention.

The biomass of the oceans is now being depleted by massive fishing for animal feed while corn is being burnt. I would like to thank all of the people and commpanies that are doing work on energy issues.. ..HG..

Solar and Wind electricity costs two to ten times more than Coal and Nuclear

WRONG Henry.


It will be iteresting to see how DME shapes up as far as energy conversion efficiencies and the lubricicity/ polymer incompatability as experience is gained in new methods of production.
It may be an answer to the increasing divergence from both the traditional ic engine manufacturing plants and increasingly divergent fuel formats as a host of new fuels try to find a place in the market.
As many proposed (and current fuels are synthesised to some degree and the prospect is for increasing reliance on these techniques to allow a greater quality control in the tighter emission future , D.M.E. needs to be better understood .


The most technically effective and cheapest measure the truck and trailer manufacturers could do to reduce fuel consumption is to improve the aerodynamics.

See Robert Englar's extensive work in this field.

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