Power to the people
Volvo pursuing a variety of engine technologies for any fuel type to meet the unique demands within the trucking industry

By Suzanne Stempinski, field editor

How will we keep our trucks on the road as the future becomes the present? Between regulatory mandates and practical application, there’s a huge well of research and development money being spent. What are the solutions? LNG (liquefied natural gas)? CNG (compressed natural gas)? DME (dimethyl ether)? Who decides what the right solution is? What does it cost to bring it to market? To provide the infrastructure for distribution and availability? And is the “best” solution the one that people will adopt (think Beta vs. VHS)?

Volvo Trucks plans to launch its own 13-liter LNG engine for North America in 2014, to complement its previously announced CNG-powered Volvo VNM and VNL trucks.

“The Volvo Group’s vision is to become the world leader in sustainable transport solutions. We will achieve this by creating value; producing products and services; driving quality, safety and environmental care; and work with energy, passion and respect for the individual and the environment,” Olof Persson, president and CEO of Volvo Group said at a Corporate Climate Summit held in Miami, FL, on May 18.

It’s a philosophy that they expect will take them “from the well to the wheels,” as environmental concerns and changing resources influence technological advances.

Volvo Trucks seems to be staying ahead of the crowd. They’re investing in the research and development of multiple types of renewable fuels, ranging from biodiesel, to synthetic diesel, DME, methanol, ethanol, biogas, and biogas plus biodiesel, as well as hydrogen plus biogas.

At a roundtable discussion following the opening session of the Corporate Climate Summit, Olof Persson; Dennis Slagle, executive vice president of Group Trucks Sales and Marketing Americas; and Ron Huibers, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales and Marketing talked about Volvo’s impact on the U.S. economy, as well as its global reach.

“We added 2,000 new American jobs in the last year,” said Slagle. “That’s 12,000 total jobs in North America.”

By expending capital resources into a variety of fuel and fuel alternatives research, Volvo is looking to keep its options open. So why not wait until someone else comes up with the plan and then plug their money into those solutions?

“That’s the consequence of wanting to be a world leader versus playing catch-up,” explained Persson. “The money we spend gives us increased knowledge and increased technology.”

It also opens dialogue with policymakers and regulatory advisors.

It’s like a horse race where you’ve got multiple contenders.

“We’re riding all the horses to see which ones will pan out,” said Huibers.

Multiple technologies will provide solutions for a variety of regions. For example, China could be the right outlet for electric technology. Europe is leaning toward LNG. And in North America it will likely be a combination of technologies, providing different options for different markets.

The bottom line? Volvo appears to be in for the long haul, the short haul and the vocational application. Whatever it takes. LL