Volvo is introducing liquified natural gas trucks in some European markets.   Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS
Volvo is introducing liquified natural gas trucks in some European markets. Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS

Volvo Trucks has announced it will start selling liquified natural gas (LNG) trucks in Europe from early 2018

Volvo Trucks is introducing Euro 6-compliant heavy duty trucks running on LNG, or biogas, in some international markets, although currently there are no immediate plans for them in SA.

The new trucks are said to have the same performance, driveability and fuel consumption as Volvo’s diesel-powered models. Furthermore, the new trucks’ CO² emissions are 20%–100% lower compared with diesel, depending on choice of fuel.

The Volvo FH LNG and FM LNG are available with 420hp or 460hp for heavy regional and long-haul operations.

"With our new trucks running on liquefied natural gas or biogas, we can offer an alternative with low climate impact that also meets high demands on performance, fuel efficiency and operating range.

"This is a combination that our customers in regional and long haulage require," says Lars Mårtensson, director environment and innovation at Volvo Trucks.

WE’RE MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR HEAVY TRUCK OPERATIONS TO REDUCE THEIR CLIMATE IMPACT.

"While these trucks will not be available to the South African market in the foreseeable future, Volvo Trucks has reduced the emission of air pollutants from new Volvo Trucks currently on sale in our market considerably and decreased fuel consumption as well as the overall impact to climate.

"With the development of these products, Volvo Trucks reiterates its commitment to become the most preferred sustainable transport provider," says Joe Pretorius, brand manager at the company’s South African operation.

Instead of an Otto cycle engine, which is the conventional solution for gas-powered vehicles, the FH LNG and FM LNG are powered by gas engines utilising diesel cycle technology. This means that an operator who chooses gas can do so without compromising on driveability, fuel efficiency or reliability says Volvo.

The company’s 460hp gas engine delivers maximum torque of 2,300Nm while the 420hp version produces 2,100Nm, the same as the company’s corresponding diesel engines. What is more, the company says that fuel consumption is on a par with its diesel engines, but is 15% to 25% lower than for conventional internal combustion engines.

NATURAL GAS … IS COMPETITIVELY PRICED AND THERE ARE SUFFICIENT RESERVES.

The fuel used is natural gas in the form of LNG, or biogas, known as bio-LNG.

Both fuels consist of methane. If biogas is used, the company says the climate footprint can shrink by as much as 100% and if natural gas is used, the reduction is 20%. These figures relate to emissions from the vehicle during usage, known as tank-to-wheel.

In order to maximise the driving range, the tanks are filled with LNG, which is stored at 4–10 bar pressure at a temperature of -140°C to -125°C. The biggest fuel tank variant contains enough LNG for a range of up to 1,000km.

Refuelling takes about the same time as filling up with diesel. When driving, the fuel is warmed up, pressurised and converted into a gas before it is injected into the engine. In order to ignite the gas, a tiny quantity of diesel is added at the moment of injection.

A 100% reduction of CO² emissions requires that fossil diesel is replaced with HVO (hydrogenated vegetable oils) and combined with bio-LNG.

The company says it is now working together with gas suppliers and customers to develop the expansion of LNG infrastructure in Europe.

This development is also being supported politically in many countries and by the EU.

Bio-LNG and HVO are both available in SA but in limited quantities, making the implementation of these trucks locally difficult at present.

"Natural gas offers clear climate upsides, it is competitively priced in many countries and there are sufficient reserves to justify large-scale use.

"Our focus on LNG vehicles is creating new prerequisites for our customers to run fuel-and cost-efficient operations.

"At the same time, we’re making it possible for heavy truck operations to considerably reduce their climate impact," says Mårtensson.

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