Volvo, the corporate that deserves credit into perpetuity for being first to add seat belts when other car builders of the time baulked at the cost, now aims to become climate neutral by limiting emissions on three fronts.
In China, Volvo Cars on Monday opened a new electric motor lab in Shanghai, where electric motors will be designed and developed for the next generation of Volvo models.
In Germany, the Volvo Group and Daimler Truck AG have entered into a joint venture to develop, produce and sell fuel-cell systems for heavy-duty trucks and other applications.
The JV aims to be a leading global manufacturer of fuel cells, and thus help the world take a major step towards climate-neutral and sustainable transportation by 2050.
And in Umbogintwini on the KZN South Coast, Volvo Trucks Southern Africa has brought in two Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) trucks to test on SA’s busiest trucking route, the N3.
“Many of our customers already work hard to reduce their environmental footprint. We therefore see a clear potential for LNG units as a vital part of the solution,” said Marcus Hörberg, vice president of Volvo Group Southern Africa.
“Our vision is that trucks from Volvo will eventually have zero emissions, although the way of achieving that is not by one single solution but rather through several solutions in parallel.”
Hörberg added that reducing diesel pollution from commercial traffic is a challenge that requires engagement from politicians and transport purchasers, haulage companies and vehicle manufacturers. “As Volvo Trucks, we are determined to play a leading role in bringing innovative and environmentally friendly transport solutions that will be good for the industry and the planet,” Hörberg said.
READY FOR THE N3
Eric Parry, product manager of Volvo Trucks Southern Africa, said the gas-powered trucks have been developed specifically for heavy regional and long-haul operations, and will meet the rigours of the N3.
While natural gas is a fossil fuel, Volvo said it produces 20% lower CO2 emissions than diesel, and the technology is readily for implementation, unlike hydrogen tanks.
Full electric trucks, as promised by Tesla, are also not yet cost effective for local fleet owners as the batteries’ weight and cost detract from payload and add to the initial outlay.
Parry said the gas-powered Volvo FH LNG drives and performs just like the diesel-fuelled Volvo FH.
“The power train in the new gas-powered trucks is based on our renowned diesel engine technology.
“Also, by using LNG rather than Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), it is possible to carry larger quantities of fuel and thus ensure the necessary operating range for long-haul assignments,” Parry said.
The Volvo FH LNG uses Adblue and a particulate filter for exhaust after-treatment, just like Volvo’s other Euro 6 trucks.
LIKE DIESEL, ONLY BETTER
Parry said gas-powered trucks offer the same fuel efficiency as diesel engines and can operate at the same speed.
In addition, as LNG is often cheaper per litre than even 500 ppm diesel, this offers a good opportunity to reduce fuel costs.
Parry said that with a 205 kg LNG tank, European operators are seeing usable range of up to 1 000 km, depending on the terrain covered and payload carried.
Renergen, which described itself as “an emerging helium and natural gas producer”, is already building LNG gas pumps on the N3, anticipating a turn-on date of the plant in around the middle of next year.
Filling a fuel tank with LNG involves a different procedure and some safety precautions due to the low temperatures of the liquid fuel, but it is not complicated or more time consuming than filling up with diesel. “As the LNG coverage expands, the viability of running vehicles on this efficient fuel alternative will certainly increase,” said Parry.
He said the company will soon start getting feedback from local fleet operators to establish how viable LNG trucks are for southern Africa.