Volvo has displayed trucks that can potentially be driven carbon-free, by using renewable liquid and gaseous fuels and/or combinations of fuels: biodiesel, biogas combined with biodiesel, ethanol/methanol, DME, synthetic diesel and hydrogen gas combined with biogas. Volvo says that since all of these fuels are produced from renewable raw materials, they do not contribute to carbon dioxide emissions.
“Volvo is part of the climate problem, but today we have shown that carbon dioxide-free transport is a possibility and that we, as a vehicle manufacturer, both can and will be part for the solution to the climate issue,” says Leif Johansson, CEO of the Volvo Group.
The seven Volvo FM trucks are equipped with Volvo’s own 9-litre diesel engines that have been specially modified by the Group’s engineers to illustrate the possibilities of carbon dioxide-free transport.
According to the Stern report, approximately 14 per cent of total global carbon dioxide emissions will come from the transport sector, with road transport accounting for a total of 10 per cent.
However, there is no information on the percentage of these emission levels that in turn originate from cargo transport. A calculation based on European conditions and statistics, whereby passenger cars represent 60% of carbon dioxide emissions and cargo transport for the remaining 40%, indicates that cargo transport will account for about 4-5% of total global carbon dioxide emissions.
“As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of heavy trucks, diesel engines and buses, the Volvo Group is part of the climate problem,” says Leif Johansson, CEO of Volvo. “But environmental issues are one of the areas which we have assigned the very highest priority, and based on our resources and knowledge, we both can and will be part of the solution.”
“The diesel engine is an extremely efficient energy converter that is perfectly suited to many different renewable fuels, liquid or gaseous,” says Jan-Eric Sundgren, member of Volvo Group Management and Senior Vice President, Public and Environmental Affairs. “With our know-how in engine technology and our large volumes, we can manufacture engines for several different renewable fuels and also create possibilities for carbon dioxide-free transportation in such other product areas as buses, construction equipment and boats.”
However, the supply of different renewable fuels is significantly limited and there is no large-scale production or distribution for the majority of the alternatives that could be utilised in carbon dioxide-free transports.
“With these vehicles, we have shown that Volvo is ready, that we possess the technology and the resources for carbon dioxide-free transport, but we cannot do this alone,” says Leif Johansson. “We also require large-scale production of renewable fuels and putting such production in operation requires extensive investments in research and development, and also well-defined, common guidelines from authorities in as many countries as possible.”
Volvo has carried out its own analyses of the renewable fuels that are most suitable for carbon dioxide-free transports. In these analyses, Volvo considered important aspects such as the impact on the environment, energy efficiency, the efficiency level in the use of the land for cultivating crops for the respective fuels, the amounts of the different fuels that can potentially be produced, the level of vehicle adaptation required in purely technical terms, the costs of the fuels and how easy it is to distribute the fuels.
“We know that in the foreseeable future there will be insufficient biomass or renewable fuels to fully replace fossil fuels,” says Jan-Eric Sundgren. “That is why it is important that decisions on the production of future fuels are preceded by such comprehensive assessments – otherwise there is the risk that we focus on too many and quite simply unsuitable alternatives, which will delay the introduction of carbon dioxide-free transport.”
Despite the current shortage of both biomass for the production of renewable fuels, and finished fuels, the Volvo Group does not view carbon dioxide-free transport as a utopian idea. One of the reasons for this is the second generation of renewable fuels that are produced through gasification and that generate both large volumes and a greater number of fuels to choose between.
“Gasification is a promising line that may lead to a significantly larger substitution than today’s technology,” says Leif Johansson. “Our own history has taught us that much of what we once thought impossible we have since been able to solve a few years later. This can be applied to such important areas as energy efficiency and exhaust emission control. I am an optimist and believe in a similar trend in carbon dioxide-free transport.”
The trucks exhibited in Stockholm were operated on the seven following renewable fuels/fuel combinations:
Biodiesel is produced by the esterification of vegetable oils. Rapeseed oil and sunflower seed oil are the most common raw materials in Europe.
Biogas is a gaseous fuel that is largely comprised of hydrocarboned methane. Biogas can be extracted in sewage treatment works, at rubbish dumps and at other sites at which biodegradable materials are found.
Biogas + biodiesel
Biogas + biodiesel are combined in separate tanks and injection systems. A small percentage (10 per cent) of biodiesel or synthetic diesel is used for achieving compression ignition. The biogas in this alternative is in a cooled and liquid form that increases its range.
DME – Dimethyl ether
Dimethyl ether is a gas that is handled in liquid form under low pressure. DME is produced through the gasification of biomass.
Methanol is produced through the gasification of biomass and ethanol through the fermentation of crops rich in sugar and starch.
Synthetic Diesel is a mixture of synthetically manufactured hydrocarbon produced through the gasification of biomass. Synthetic diesel can be mixed with conventional diesel fuel without problem.
Hydrogen gas + Biogas
This vehicle operates on a combination of hydrogen gas and biogas whereby the hydrogen gas is mixed in small volumes with compressed biogas (8% volume). Higher mixture levels are also possible. The hydrogen gas can be produced through the gasification of biomass or electrolysis of water with renewable electricity.