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Trucks of the future
Volvo unveils trucks that run on just about everything, except diesel

By Jami Jones
senior editor


Imagine a day when diesel is hitting $6 or $7 a gallon. Only instead feeling the pain of an empty wallet and leaving a fuel island in tears, you roll on by with a smile on your face.

If Volvo Trucks North America has its way, you will move on down the road in one of its alternative fuel trucks powered with just about anything except diesel.

Volvo officials showcased seven such trucks in early March at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference in Washington, DC.

The trucks, powered by everything from biodiesel and ethanol to biogas and hydrogen, are touted by the company as being carbon dioxide neutral. That means they don’t add any carbon dioxide to the air through the combustion process.

A number of concerns – including skyrocketing fuel prices, the realization that fossil fuel supplies won’t be around forever, and climate change – prompted Volvo officials to prove that trucks could be run on virtually any type of renewable fuel.

Volvo Group CEO Leif Johansson said by building trucks that can run on alternative and renewable fuels, Volvo addresses the uncertainty that political leaders may have as they move forward on policies to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

 “I used to say we could run a truck on anything, even vanilla sauce,” Johansson said with a laugh during a roundtable discussion following the unveiling. “We can’t do that, but that’s about the only thing.”

The seven CO2 neutral trucks unveiled this spring were powered by:

Synthetic diesel;
Hydrogen and biogas; and
Biogas and biodiesel.

Johansson said the trucks prove that diesel engines, some modified  and others left untouched, have the capability of running on just about any type of fuel. It’s just that government must decide the most viable fuels for the future. There have to be quality standards for the fuels and, obviously, supply chains for the fuels.

Although not on display, Volvo officials also touched on hybrid technology for both local and long-haul trucks. Initial estimates of fuel savings for long-haul trucks were in the 5 to 8 percent range. LL