“Methane gas is by far the most accessible fuel as an alternative to diesel.” – Lars Mårtensson, Environmental Director Volvo Trucks
80% methane replacement expected after engine refinement and testing
Volvo Trucks is staking a claim in the heavy-duty natural gas vehicle arena, announcing it will be the first manufacturer with an ‘efficient’ natural gas diesel dual-fuel engine meeting Euro V exhaust emission standards (introduced in 2009). Field testing will start in Sweden and the UK in 2010. “This unique technology allows us to combine the advantages of gas with the diesel engine’s high efficiency rating, which is about 30-40 percent superior to that of the spark plug engine,” comments Lars Mårtensson, Environmental Director Volvo Trucks. “As a result, this truck consumes considerably less energy than traditional gas trucks do.”
Following trials of different biofuels which commenced August 2007, Volvo Trucks is now focusing on two renewable fuels: DME and methane gas + diesel. “Methane gas is by far the most accessible fuel as an alternative to diesel. There are larger reserves of natural gas than oil. But above all, production of climate-neutral biogas is gaining momentum in many countries, which solves the most urgent problem – reducing CO2 emissions,” says Lars Mårtensson.
Volvo Trucks says its technology has significantly increased operational range by combining higher density liquified methane gas with diesel and using this fuel in a diesel engine. The company further states that the diesel engine’s driveability is better compared to a spark ignited engine.How Volvo Trucks’ gas truck works
The solution is based on Volvo’s Euro 5 diesel engines. When the engines are converted for gas operation, special tanks are added for either liquid volume-efficient methane gas (Liquefied natural gas – LNG/Liquefied biogas – LBG) or pressurised methane gas (compressed natural gas – CNG/compressed biogas – 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 drive-ability are identical to that of a conventional diesel 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,” explains Lars Mårtensson. If the gas runs out, the truck can continue operating on only diesel.
Field testing to optimize technologyThe amount of diesel required during operation varies, but Volvo Trucks aims to minimise the proportion of diesel.“We expect to be able to run on up to 80 percent methane gas once the technology has been refined and tested,” says Mats Franzén, Manager Engine Strategy and Planning, Volvo Trucks. “Our field tests in 2010 will start with a mixture containing up to 70 percent methane gas. The remainder will consist of bio-mix diesel, i.e. fossil diesel mixed with diesel produced from renewable raw materials.”Calculated over the whole fuel chain, from production to use on roads, the new technology could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent in the long term compared to traditional diesel operation, if biogas and 100 percent biodiesel are used.Market Appeal
There are two main factors driving the increased market demand for gas-powered trucks. One is cost savings. Methane gas is currently a relatively cheap fuel in many markets.
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. To optimise and refine the technology, Volvo Trucks is also collaborating with technology companies Clean Air Power, Hardstaff Group and Westport Innovations.Both natural gas and biogas consist of methane. The difference is that natural gas is a fossil fuel, whereas biogas is produced from biodegradable material such as waste.Source: Volvo North America, Volvo Trucks, NGV Global News and WIH Resource Group
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