Volvo Trucks is expanding its model range in Europe with a new version of the Volvo FE running entirely on methane gas. Business Manager Alternative Drivelines, Christina Eriksson and Environmental Director, Lars Mårtensson explain more…
Think about how many trucks and lorries you see on the roads today; doesn’t it seem like almost every other vehicle is a heavy one, transporting goods from A to B? This is especially so on the bigger roads and in the busy centres; take London for example, the mass of activity and the sheer volume of people requiring goods and services means that logistics and the movement of things is essential; without movement of goods around England’s capital the city would quite literally grind to a halt.
And when you’re transporting a large amount of produce, you need the correct equipment. It’s likely that you’ll use a truck or a large van and of course this means less journeys as you can pack more into one load. But if the truck is not efficient internally; if it’s churning out huge amounts of CO₂ and wasting energy throughout the whole journey then perhaps there is a need to look at a new type of vehicle, something which is kinder to the environment and specifically tuned for journeys that are of the stop-start nature.
There is one such truck, developed recently, by a company renowned for its innovation and sustainability values and that truck is the Volvo FE CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).
Launched in August, the Volvo FE CNG is a new version of the Volvo FE running entirely on methane gas. It has been has been primarily developed for operations involving short driving cycles with repeated starts and stops such as refuse collection and local distribution. This innovative approach could be the start of a revolution when it comes to powering the many trucks that hop to and from destinations, making short journeys, in major cities; vastly reducing the amount of CO₂ that is pumped into the atmosphere. Volvo are already claiming that this truck produces 70% less emissions than that of a diesel truck.
It is driven by a new 9-litre Euro 6 gas-powered engine featuring spark plug technology and automatic transmission.
“With the Volvo FE CNG we can now offer companies that drive a lot in urban environments a truck with a far lower environmental impact. Many cities the world over are looking for alternatives to diesel-powered trucks. In the field of refuse handling in particular, renewable fuels are often a requirement for securing a purchase contract,” says Christina Eriksson, Business Manager Alternative Drivelines at Volvo Trucks.
“Spark plug technology is particularly suitable for driving cycles where the truck covers short distances with a lot of start-stop traffic,” explains Christina Eriksson.
Lars Mårtensson, Environmental Director at Volvo Trucks said: “Methane gas is the fuel that will become a sustainable alternative to diesel in the long term. Right now the focus is on working together with the various public authorities and private corporations to draw up the relevant rules and create the right preconditions for positive development.”
Sales of the new gas powered truck started in August and series production is set to get underway in the first half of 2015.
And who’s to say that the Volvo truck could only be used for refuse collection? The company is confident that methane gas can be used to power a wider variety of vehicles, as long as methane is easily accessible.
“Methane gas is a collective name for biogas and natural gas, both of which largely consist of methane. Natural gas is a fossil product that is between 40 and 500 million years old and is extracted from deep inside the Earth’s crust,” the company explains.
“Biogas is similar to natural gas but it is a renewable gas that is created when organic material is decomposed by bacteria in an oxygen-free environment. It can for instance be created from refuse and other organic waste. When a truck runs on biogas, emissions of carbon dioxide are cut by up to 70 per cent compared with running on diesel fuel.”
Of course, if refuse companies do decide to switch to methane powered trucks, the whole system could become self-sustaining with the vehicles delivering waste to a treatment facility where decomposing waste would release methane and that very methane could be collected, compressed, and pumped back into the trucks.
And then there’s the rest of the trucking industry where if this concept was to take off, focus would have to be on the feasibility of refuelling.
Volvo Trucks are well known for their unique and innovative marketing campaigns and as interest in the Volvo FE CNG grows, it is likely that a viral campaign will be just around the corner.
One thing is for sure, this is a breakthrough that cannot be ignored. Methane is certainly an energy source that is gaining traction in the global energy mix and with its impressive CO₂ statistics, its looks like more research and more development will help bolster its growth.