2011 Volvo's project with Bio-DME fuel for commercial vehicles has a bright future

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Two years ago, Volvo started a Bio-DME project which aims to assess whether there is a market for Bio-DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) for commercial vehicles. If this technology could be used for commercial vehicles and diesel fuel were to be replaced by Bio-DME, CO2 emissions would be able to be reduced by 95 percent.

Together with a number of partners including Bio-DME producer Chemrec and fuel distributor Preem, Volvo has developed a transport system that encompasses the entire chain from production and distribution of Bio-DME to operation in Volvo trucks in a number of haulage firms. Ten Volvo Bio-DME trucks have been used with success for over 100,000 kilometres and the results were promising.

"This is the first time Bio-DME is being used as a vehicle fuel on a large scale, and following the first evaluation of the field test we can see that the Bio-DME trucks function very well on the road, way exceeding our expectations. The technology is reliable and the entire process is characterised by energy-efficiency, from production and distribution all the way to the vehicles themselves," says Per Salomonsson, Project Manager Alternative Fuels at Volvo.

The biofuel is made from black liquor, a by-product of pulp production, at the Chemrec gasification plant in Pitea. The production system works smoothly and the possibility of delivering the fuel on a large scale depends to a considerable extent on the incentives available for renewable fuels.

"Bio-DME can also be made from other renewable raw materials, and we feel this is a vehicle fuel with a great future. We’ve developed technology that makes it possible to use the fuel in commercial operations. The biggest challenge in the future is to establish a market and an infrastructure for a new vehicle fuel, and this requires investment. Here society’s decision-makers play an important role in creating the essential preconditions by taking long-term decisions and developing incentives," says Per Salomonsson.

The field test will continue until the end of the year, followed by an evaluation to chart the viability of a future market for Bio-DME.


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