Carbon Dioxide Neutral Transports

Switching to renewable fuels

There is no doubt - switching to renewable fuels is one of the keys to reducing the climate impact of the transport industry.

The Volvo Group's ability to produce CO2 neutral vehicles was clearly demonstrated in 2007 when we produced seven demonstration trucks that were adapted to run on seven renewable fuels.

Optimizing combustion technology
The diesel engine is one of the most efficient energy converters available. Much research today aims at optimizing it for the range of renewable fuels which the transport industry is likely to rely on tomorrow.

Research on the best ways in which to utilize renewable energy sources is in progress. We find three alternatives particularly interesting:

Biodiesel
Biodiesel is produced by the esterification of vegetable oils. In Europe, the most common raw materials are rapeseed oil and sunflower seed oil.

The characteristics of the second generation biodiesel are very similar to those of fossil diesel. Second generation biodiesel produces very low well to wheel CO2 emissions.

Bio dimethyl ether (DME)
This fuel is produced through the gasification of biomass. The gas formed in that process, synthetic gas, is then catalyzed to produce DME. The gas is handled in liquid form under low pressure.

DME features high energy efficiency, is very efficient from a land use perspective, and produces very low CO2 emissions from well to wheel.

Biogas
This gaseous fuel consists largely of methane, CH4. Biogas can be extracted in sewage treatment works, at garbage dumps, and at other sites at which biodegradable materials are found.

Just like DME, biogas is built of short carbon chains, making it an efficient carrier of hydrogen - and a fuel that emits less CO2 and virtually no soot when combusted. It offers high land use efficiency and can potentially be produced in large volumes.

Learn more in the "Responsibility" section >> 

Limited supply
The main challenge at this point is the availability of fuels rather than the technology. It's a fact that in the foreseeable future there will be insufficient biomass or renewable fuels to fully replace fossil fuels. And there will not be a single successor to fossil fuel but a range of alternative fuels, with different fuels being used in different parts of the world.

A vision for 2020: biogas, DME and second generation biodiesel available
Through various collaborations, Volvo Group promotes the establishment of infrastructure that will distribute the fuels of the future.

DME has grown rapidly in the energy sector in recent years. The BioDME project in Sweden is just one example demonstrating that infrastructure can be established to promote use of this fuel in the transport sector.

There are also signs that regional infrastructure for biogas production and distribution will be established during the years to come.