Future fuel for half of Europe?

2012-06-04 12:14

Trucks that impose hardly any load on the environment because their carbon emissions are virtually zero. Volvo Trucks is testing vehicles powered by bio-DME, a fuel that can be produced from biomass.

For the transport industry, this could reduce dependence on oil and reduce the environmental impact.

Since September 2010, 10 specially tuned Volvo trucks have been operating on Swedish roads powered by bio-DME, a fuel produced from natural raw materials and so reduces carbon emissions by 95% compared with conventional diesel.


Lars Martensson, environmental director at Volvo Trucks, said: “We have, for example, demonstrated both that the technology works in practice, when it comes to both the production of fuel and trucks in traffic, and that the infrastructure with filling stations in warious parts of Sweden works effectively. The test results bode well for the future.”

Bio-DME (dimethyl ether), produced from biomass, is a liquid bio-fuel that can be made from wood and waste from agricultural production. The bio-DME used by the Volvo Trucks field tests is made from black liquor used in the flow of energy which powers a pulp mill. The process takes part of the black liquor, turns it into a gas and then turns it into fuel. The fuel is developed at the Chemrec plant in Sweden and is reportedly the first plant of its kind in the world.


Martensson said: "According to the calculations, bio-DME could replace up to half of the diesel being consumed by commercial vehicles in Europe within the next 20 years. We have a chance to make a fantastic contribution to help the environment."

Test driver Yngve Holm, who transports pulp wood in a DME-adapted Volvo FH-440, said: “I can drive about 650km on one tank and the truck runs just as well as it does on any other fuel. It is actually much quieter, both internally and externally.”

Holm has driven 40 000km in his modified truck and said: “Many people are curious and want to know how it works. I usually say that it works really well. The most important thing is that we are doing something for the environment and the future and that’s good for the soul, as I see it.”

Bio-DME production is still in its infancy, but the potential is enormous.

Max Jönsson, MD of Chemrec, said: “We are focusing on industrialising our product with the pulp industry in Sweden and abroad. To realise their true potential and help to create the conditions for a climate-neutral transport system, the rules for the second generation of bio-fuels need to be set.

Jönsson said: "We have shown the technology works. The ball is now in the decision-makers’ court. It is up to them to create the conditions for this kind of production."

  • des316 - 2012-06-04 14:58

    Cool, when can I get some for my TDi?

  • gillian.sabino1 - 2012-06-04 22:19

    The original veggie fuel for Europe was soya, the idea being that any extra production would simply go into food. Than the mentally challenged scared the world stiff with global warming, which has been going on since before Krakatoa, and the whole renaissance of farming and farming areas has stalled as useless governments failed to move ahead! Diesel engines without computers can burn veggie oil. Straight.

  • colin.langley - 2012-06-05 14:12

    Happy news...the planet needs a damn break!

  • fdlouw - 2012-06-05 14:36

    All good and well, but what would the fuel economy be? Hopefully not more than 4.2 trees per 100km...

      Horst - 2012-06-05 18:19

      Yes, that really is the question, how many forests do we have to chop down in order to keep this fleet of trucks running?

  • Pierre - 2012-06-05 23:49


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