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Volvo to Run Begin Field Testing Heavy-Duty Trucks Using Methane-Diesel Combination

Volvo Trucks will begin field testing in Sweden and the UK in 2010 of heavy-duty diesel trucks fuelled by a combination of methane gas and diesel.

The field tests will start with a mixture containing up to 70% methane gas. The remainder will consist of bio-mix diesel—fossil diesel mixed with diesel produced from renewable raw materials, says Mats Franzén, Manager Engine Strategy and Planning, Volvo Trucks. Volvo expects to be able to run on up to 80-90% methane gas once the technology has been refined and tested.

Calculated over the whole fuel chain, from production to use on roads, the new technology could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80% in the long term compared to traditional diesel operation, if biogas and 100% biodiesel are used, Volvo says.

This unique technology allows us to combine the advantages of gas with the diesel engine’s high efficiency rating, which is about 50 per cent superior to that of the spark plug engine. As a result, this truck consumes about 30 per cent less energy than traditional gas trucks do.

—Lars Mårtensson, Environmental Director Volvo Trucks

In August 2007, Volvo Trucks presented seven driveable FM trucks adapted for use by different biofuels. (Earlier post.) Following further analysis, the company is now focusing on two renewable fuels: DME and methane gas + diesel (biomethane plus biodiesel).

The solution is based on Volvo’s proven Euro-5 diesel engines. When the engines are converted for gas operation, special tanks are added for either liquid volume-efficient methane gas (LNG/LBG) or pressurized methane gas (CNG/CBG). In addition, a separate fuel system is added with gas injectors in the inlet manifold.

A small amount of diesel is injected and ignited by the compression, which in turn ignites the methane gas/air mixture. This saves the need for a spark plug and allows Volvo to make full use of the efficient diesel technology. As a result, the power and driveability are identical to that of a conventional truck.

Processors continuously calculate fuel ratio according to the driver’s current driving pattern. The optimum—i.e. the highest—proportion of gas is achieved during smooth, stable driving.

—Lars Mårtensson

If the gas runs out, the truck can continue operating solely on diesel power. This feature of Volvo’s technology makes this system a realistic option for many customers, especially in areas where the gas distribution network is underdeveloped. To optimize and refine the technology, Volvo Trucks is also collaborating with technology companies Clean Air Power, Hardstaff Group and Westport.

There are two main factors driving the increased market demand for gas-powered trucks, Volvo says. One is cost savings. Methane gas is currently a relatively cheap fuel in many markets. For example, Volvo Trucks’ technology already offers a profitable fuel option for trucks undertaking long daily transport jobs and returning to the same filling station (i.e. municipal or local haulage operations)

The other driving factor stems from the strict environmental regulations in many towns and cities, playing a crucial role in purchasing decisions, particularly in municipal companies. Volvo Trucks maintains a dialogue with several fuel companies to ensure that filling stations are constructed to keep pace with the increasing number of vehicles out on the roads. This will prepare the ground for broad market introduction in the future, the company says.


Bob Carpenter

What happens to an 18 wheeler's crash worthiness safety while hauling around a pair of 100 gallon saddle tanks of LNG or CNG??? Bet the risk of fire goes up substantially. Diesel is much more fire resistant in a crash. That's why battle tanks are diesel fueled.


They could use ANG tanks behind the cab. Many diesel tanks are saddle mounted on the sides. ANG can be done with activated carbon or zeolites. Since the NG is under lower pressure and adsorbed there is less danger.

Fred H

Ha ha, if I were you, I would be more worried about the thousands of tanker-trucks carrying TONS of highly flammable liquids and gasses that are on the road right NOW.


Don't worry about the jokes about explosions, it's safe, cleaner, cheaper, better. Volvo is learning after 100 years how to use a better fuel.

I have ordered a green car to buy for cash near where i live in this site for almost 3-4 years and just a natural gas conversion for gasoline-natural gas bi-fuel would have been great.


Since it is 70% NG, they could store enough as ANG for 400 miles. That is about one days travels, so the truck stops would have to provide NG, but the savings to the trucker in fuel costs would be significant. If all big rigs used this we could reduce imported oil more than 10%, it is really something to look at for a solution.


Methane is lighter than air so it won't hang around to find an ignition source.  It also doesn't present contamination issues if it spills.

Henry Gibson

Obviously propane can be used in the same way. There are not enough growing plants in the world to replace the liquid fuels being used now. Biofuels are a now a large cause of deforestation as they were 200 years ago in Britain and longer ago in Iceland and the US. It produces more CO2 release to produce ethanol from Corn than to just use extra oil and coal and grow forests on the cornfields. ..HG..


Soon there will not be enough oil for sale to power all the cars. If we can power half of the vehicles with E85, M85, ANG, CNG and/or electric we will have more oil for a longer time.

Less available and higher priced oil will have a disruptive effect on world's economies. If we wait until we run low, then it will be one big scramble for alternative. Let's start now and make it an easy transition...consider it an intelligence test.

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