July 16, 2007 8:30 AM, EDT

Volvo, Mack to Research Engine Efficiency

Plan to Receive Funding Assistance From U.S., Sweden

By Frederick Kiel, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the July 16 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Volvo AB and Mack Trucks have agreed to develop a heavy-duty diesel engine that would use 10% less fuel and emit 10% less carbon dioxide than 2007 engines under a new agreement between the U.S. and Swedish governments.

Under the pact, signed June 28 in Stockholm, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Swedish government and Volvo will contribute up to $3 million each to the two-year project.

The project, one of several DOE is co-sponsoring with engine manufacturers, followed President Bush’s meeting in May with top Swedish officials.

“The target to deliver 10% improvement in fuel and a 10% cut in CO2 [carbon dioxide], while simultaneously achieving U.S. 2010 emissions [levels], would be a huge improvement, relative to what our industry has been able to achieve over the last 10 years,” Anthony Greszler, vice president of advanced engineering for Volvo Powertrain North America, told Transport Topics.

“This agreement means that we can implement a number of projects within the environmental area that would otherwise have not been possible,” said Jan-Eric Sundgren, a member of the Volvo Group Executive Committee.

Sundgren said government financial incentives would allow Volvo engineers to focus on long-range solutions to environmental problems, rather than putting all efforts into meeting government-set deadlines for new mandates.

Marten Wikforss, Volvo AB’s global spokesman, told TT that Volvo was developing engines to comply with 2010 U.S. mandates without government funds.

“This is a separate project,” Wikforss said. “It’s not aimed at 2010 but rather to find the best combinations of hybrid technology, biodiesel, other alternative fuels and computerization so that consumers will get much better fuel economy on much cleaner engines five or 10 years from now.”

“Yes, it’s possible that Volvo can use technology from this project to build their 2010 emission-compliant engines, but every company will have the same access to this research,” Gurpreet Singh, team leader of DOE’s Engine and Emission Control Technologies, told TT.

Volvo engineers from around the world will be involved in the project, though it will be centered in Volvo’s research laboratory in Hagerstown, Md., Wikforss said. Researchers for universities and businesses also will be brought into the project as needed, he said.

Greszler said that no U.S. emission mandates, including the planned 2010 standards, set limits on carbon dioxide emissions, even though the gas is considered a contributor to global warming.

Cutting fuel use in heavy-duty trucks by 10% while producing the same performance also would cut all pollutant emissions, such as diesel particulates and NOx, as well as carbon dioxide, Greszler said.

“The objective of this agreement is to increase the fuel economy of a heavy truck by combining a narrow-speed engine with a continuously variable transmission and to seek to reuse waste heat,” Singh said.

The agreement also “seeks to use hybrid technology for longhaul trucks and to develop biofuels that will work in the main engines of longhaul trucks,” Singh said.

Greszler said it was too early to predict what new technologies would emerge, “but most research would focus on diesel engines, as they are expected to power most heavy-duty trucks in the near future.”

“The DOE is also financing research projects by four other heavy-duty engine makers to produce more efficient power trains that also run cleaner,” Ed Wall, program manager of DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Program, told TT. The companies are Cummins Inc., Caterpillar, Detroit Diesel Corp. and International Truck and Engine Corp.

“This is the first agreement to come out of President Bush and [Swedish] Prime Minister [Fredrik] Reinfeldt’s discussions in their meeting at the White House in May,” the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, Michael Wood, said.

The accord “is only the third such agreement entered into by the U.S. government,” a DOE official said. “The other two are with China and Brazil. The agreement will make it easier for the United States and Sweden to identify and fund potential breakthroughs in alternative energy technology.”