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Volvo to launch DME trucks in North America

7 June 2013

Volvo Trucks became the first manufacturer to announce plans to commercialize dimethyl ether (DME) powered heavy-duty commercial vehicles in North America. As a step in its “Blue Power” alternative fuel strategy, Volvo revealed ongoing US customer field testing of trucks powered by DME, and demonstrated the technology after an announcement at the California State Capitol.

Volvo intends to start a limited production of DME vehicles in 2015. The DME technology will be available in a D13 engine, the top-selling heavy-duty Volvo engine model. The I-Shift automated manual transmission will be standard on DME-powered trucks. DME-powered vehicles will join a line-up of alternative fuel vehicles that includes CNG-powered Volvo VNM and VNL model daycabs. Volvo also said it will introduce its own proprietary LNG engine in VNL daycabs and sleepers next year.

DME is gaseous compression ignition fuel of high cetane numbers. DME is handled and stored like propane, with tank pressures of 75 psi (compared to 3,600 psi for CNG). DME tanks are lighter and less complex than comparable CNG or LNG tanks. Because DME produces very low PM emissions, no diesel particulate filter (DPF) is necessary.

Volvo plans to commercialize DME technology in North America in 2015. Two DME powered Volvo VNL models equipped with a D13 engine will run in the San Joaquin Valley region of California in commercial operations by a food retailer Safeway, using DME produced by Oberon Fuels.

Oberon has developed skid-mounted, small-scale production units that can convert natural gas to DME. DME can be also produced from other methane containing gases, for example using biogas from animal, food, and agricultural feedstocks and waste. The Oberon production unit was said to convert natural gas into DME “cost effectively”, but no cost figures were provided.

The first Oberon DME plant is presently starting up. It is expected to be producing fuel-grade DME this month. This unit will produce 4,500 gallons of DME per day; subsequent units will have the ability to produce up to 10,000 gallons per day.

Oberon Fuels has received a $500,000 grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) to produce fuel-grade DME at its facilities in California.

Source: Volvo | Oberon


Dimethyl Ether