Volvo Trucks to diversify alt-fuel offerings in U.S. with new LNG engine

  • 29-May-2012 04:15 EDT
Volvo D13_T2009_1214.jpg

The new 13-L LNG engine, being developed specifically for the North American market, will be very similar to Volvo’s existing D13 13-L engine (pictured).

The Volvo Group announced plans to launch a 13-L liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine within the Volvo brand for the North American market in 2014. The new engine will complement the group’s previously announced compressed natural gas (CNG)-equipped Volvo VNM and VNL daycab models. The VNM daycab is powered by a factory-installed, 9-L Cummins Westport ISL G engine, while the VNL model (currently in the demonstration phase) fields an 11.9-L Cummins Westport ISX12 G engine that is expected to be commercially available in early 2013.

These natural-gas offerings are part of a diversified alt-fuel strategy employed by Volvo Trucks that also includes dimethyl ether (DME) and methane-diesel (click here to read more on the company’s methane-diesel technology), among other alternatives.

“We demonstrated in 2007 our ability to run vehicles on seven different fuels, and we continue to refine our work with a variety of alternative fuels and drivelines,” said Ron Huibers, President of Volvo Trucks North American Sales & Marketing. “Our comprehensive strategy—including CNG, LNG, and potentially DME—means we’ll have a complete range of natural gas solutions as the infrastructure develops.”

Advanced high-pressure diesel ignition technology that uses trace amounts of diesel to ignite the natural gas will enable the new Volvo 13-L LNG engine to deliver a 30% fuel-efficiency improvement compared with spark-ignition engines, the company claims, making the engine viable for long-haul applications. A 20% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared with current diesel products is another stated benefit of the new LNG power plant, which will be “very similar to our existing D13 13-L engine,” a company spokesman told SAE Magazines.

The proprietary Volvo I-Shift automated mechanical transmission will be available for customers to specify.

“Despite the near-term infrastructure questions regarding widespread adoption of natural gas as a heavy-duty truck fuel, it is clear this segment will grow over the next several years,” said Huibers.

Though reports have stated that another of Volvo Group’s trucks brands, Mack, also will offer the LNG engine in 2014, Mack would not confirm this to SAE Magazines: “We prefer not to get into specifics when it comes to future product plans, but certainly, as we’re doing with our current Mack TerraPro natural gas models, which we’ve had in the market for some time, we fully intend to continue meeting the demands of customers in our core market segments,” said John Walsh, Mack Vice President of Marketing.

DME, which can be produced from natural gas or coal, holds “much promise” as a heavy-truck fuel, according to Volvo. The truck maker has conducted field tests with 10 DME-fueled vehicles operating in a variety of applications in Europe. Based on the results, the company believes that the fuel could become a viable alternative to CNG or LNG in North America in terms of performance, environmental impact, safety, and distribution.

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