Volvo Trucks is the first manufacturer in the world to use Bio-DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) as a vehicle fuel with the inauguration this week of a DME filling station in Stockholm by Swedish fuel distributor Preem. As a consequence, the first five Volvo DME trucks in commercial operation are now taking to Sweden’s roads.

Bio-DME is highly exciting as a biofuel since it produces no less than 95 per cent lower emissions of carbon dioxide compared with diesel.

“For a new fuel to have a chance of survival, it needs production, distribution and suitably modified vehicles. Now we have all three pieces of the puzzle in place in a complete, entirely unique field test,” says Volvo Trucks’ Environmental Director Lars Mårtensson.

The field test will take place over a two-year period and its aim is to demonstrate the potential for large-scale investment in DME produced from biomass. The project encompasses the entire technical chain from biomass to fuel, i.e. distribution, filling stations, trucks and haulage firms.

•           Volvo Trucks’ contribution to the project consists of FH trucks that will be tested by selected customers in different parts of Sweden.

•           Production of Bio-DME will take place in Chemrec’s plant. The Volvo Group, via its subsidiary Volvo Technology Transfer, is one of the owners of Chemrec.

•           Preem will build filling stations so that the trucks can be used in regular regional and local operations.

•           The haulage companies initially participating in the field test are Green Cargo, DHL, Posten Logistik and Volvo Logistics via J-Trans.

“From an over-riding perspective, Bio-DME is one of the most promising second-generation biofuels,” says Lars Mårtensson. “It provides both high energy efficiency and extremely low emissions of greenhouse gases and these are the properties we value particularly highly when we analyse potential alternative fuels.”

This autumn, Preem will open additional filling stations in Sweden at Gothenburg, Jönköping and Piteå. In parallel, production of Bio-DME will be ramped up at the Chemrec plant in Piteå.

Introduction on a large scale requires long-term decisions

Evaluation of the field test and the authorities’ long-term decisions will determine whether large-scale production of Bio-DME will become a reality. In the EU the assessment is that Bio-DME could theoretically replace half of today’s diesel usage for heavy commercial transportation by 2030.

“The main challenges are to be able to work in a long-term perspective, produce a large quantity of biofuel, ensure distribution to a sufficiently large number of filling stations and, at the same time, promote demand,” says Lennart Pilskog, Director of Public Affairs at Volvo Trucks.

“In order to achieve this, it is necessary to have clear-cut guidelines from the authorities and co-ordinated, active co-operation between several players on the market,” he added.

DME powered vehicle

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