Heavy Duty Trucking

SEP 2014

The Fleet Business Authority

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76 HDT • SEPTEMBER 2014 www.truckinginfo.com duty vehicles for Martin Energy Ser- vices, a provider of fuels, lubricants and fueling logistical support along the Gulf of Mexico. "The main benefit of DME is that it is a true diesel replacement in the sense that it is a high-quality compression ignition fuel," says El- liot Hicks, Oberon's chief operating officer. "You get the efficiency and torque that you get with diesel from DME, with a simple engine setup." The DME-powered duo currently hauls fuel for Martin Energy Ser- vices throughout Texas, giving Volvo Trucks a real-world proving ground for the fairly new alternative fuel. "We're continuing to work toward commercialization and anticipate low-volume production in 2017," says Frank Bio, Volvo Trucks director of sales development, specialty vehicles and alternative fuels. "We continue to develop the DME engine, fuel system and work with our suppliers to commercialize all the needed components for a successful launch." Currently, according to Bio, North American field testing of DME-powered Volvo VNL daycabs contin- ues to validate Volvo Trucks' optimism about the long-term prom- ise of DME as a transportation fuel. "DME came across our radar early on as a good potential fuel and something that was well suited to the production size that we were looking at," Hicks explains. "Volvo came out as one of the leaders in DME development in the world." Volvo Trucks began developing a DME-powered heavy-duty vehicle in 2007, which it showcased along with a number of other alt-fuel vehicles in Brussels. After a quick introduction of the ve- hicle at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference in 2008, Volvo Trucks decided to move forward to bring a DME vehicle to the North American market. Fast-forward to the opening of an Oberon Fuels DME-processing facility in the Imperial Valley region of Southern California in June 2013. Volvo now had a steady supply of the fuel to power its pilot program. "Oberon has demonstrated an eco- nomical model for producing smaller batches of DME," Bio says. "They have also assisted in the process for establishing ASTM standards for fuel-grade DME." Easy decision The decision to pursue DME as an alternative fuel can be summed up in "Drivers have been overwhelm- ingly positive about operating the DME-powered trucks, noting that they perform like the diesel-powered vehicles," Bio says. "Like propane, ALTERNATIVE FUEL In the video "DME — The Future is Here," available on the Volvo YouTube channel, an excited "scientist" explains not only how DME can be processed and made readily available, but also why it could be an alt-fuel solution that many have yet to find. Oberon Fuels President Rebecca Boudreaux showcases the fuel manufacturer's 21-gallon-per-minute dispenser that could reduce infra- structure costs for fleets looking to DME. "You get the efficiency and torque that you get with diesel from DME, with a simple engine setup." – Elliot Hicks, Oberon Fuels DME does not require high-pressure pumps or cryogenic storage. Drivers quickly grow accustomed to the fuel- ing process." Horsepower, torque and engine brake response are the same as diesel, Bio says. Fuel efficiency is on par with diesel and 9 to 15% better than a spark-ignited engine. The D13-DME engines were based on the Volvo D13 engine with adjustments made to the fuel system — including injectors, pumps, seals, and fuel tanks — and the electronic engine management system. A little backstory Oberon Fuels was founded in late 2010 in San Diego after developing a process to convert biogas and natural gas into DME, first focusing on monetizing waste gas streams such as biogas from digesters and landfills.

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