Volvo Trucks recently announced that the next iteration of its popular FH and FM ranges will feature engines that can run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative fuel source to diesel. The manufacturer says that demand for gas-powered trucks is growing considerably in Europe because they are more environmentally friendly than diesel models and don’t require a compromise where performance is concerned. Volvo adds that LNG can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 20%, and there are liquefied biogas fuels (Bio-LNG) that can cut “net emissions by up to 100% from tank to wheel (TTW).”
Multiple Solutions Necessary
Creating a more sustainable heavy trucking industry will require more than one approach. For example, although Bio-LNG could replace more than 20% of diesel in Europe by 2030, generating the fuel requires a large number of plants. And while there are more gas filling stations opening up all the time, that infrastructure will still need to expand, and initially there may not be enough gas trucks to keep the supply in line with demand.
There are still challenges to overcome in developing these technologies, especially for long-haul operations, which is why Volvo believes “different types of fuels and drivelines will continue to co-exist for the foreseeable future.” That means a mix of not only gas-powered trucks, but also but more efficient, lower-emission diesel models, battery-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell-powered trucks.
Promising Future, But Challenges Remain
“Today, LNG-fuelled trucks are the most commercially viable alternative to ordinary diesel for heavy long-haul operations,” says Lars Mårtensson, director of environment and innovation at Volvo Trucks. “This fuel is available in sufficiently large quantities and at a competitive price. Using more gas trucks creates favourable conditions for making a transition to a larger share of liquefied biogas over time. A lot can already be done to reduce climate impact with today’s engines. For instance, both new and older diesel trucks from Volvo can run on HVO, a biofuel producing very low net CO2 emissions. The challenge is that the availability of biofuels continues to be so limited.”