What’s Holding Up the Production of DME-Powered Trucks?

Alternative fuel, dimethyl ether, seems like the answer we’ve been looking for, in so many ways. So what’s the holdup?

We’re always searching for the “Holy Grail” of alternative fuels, one that produces less GHG emissions, is easy to produce, is plentiful, and thus, is less costly. There have been a number of contenders, each with their own initial promise and great potential. Then reality kicks in, and the downsides emerge. One of the very promising alternative fuels has been dimethyl ether, or DME, a clean-burning methane-based fuel that can be made from a number of sources, including natural gas and agricultural waste products (biogas).  What also makes DME such an appealing fuel alternative is that it has the same performance and efficiency of diesel.

So what’s the holdup? According to an article in TruckingInfo.com,” When Will We See DME-Powered Trucks?”, Volvo Trucks North America which has been working with Oberon Fuels to develop DME for commercial use in the U.S., will not project a date when the DME-fueled trucks would be available commercially in the U.S. market. An issue that alternative fuels always face is the up-and-down nature of pricing for diesel. When the price skyrockets, everyone is searching for that new fuel that will cut costs and be compliant with environmental regulations. When the price falls, the talk turns to cost of alternative fuel production and lack of infrastructure.

However, one of the biggest boosts for DME, according to the TruckingInfo article is that “late last summer, the EPA approved Oberon Fuel’s biogas-based dimethyl ether as meeting the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, helping clear the way for it to be an alternative fuel for trucking.” The article goes on to state that the agency determined that the biogas-based fuel tested “resulted in an approximate 68% reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to baseline diesel fuel.”  Then, in February, California, that toughest of environmentally-focused states, officially approved DME for vehicle use. So once the pendulum swings again, DME-fueled vehicles may once more take center stage.

Learn a great deal more about this fuel…and what might be getting in the way of producing DME-powered trucks in the TruckingInfo article.

Joe Puff

About Joe Puff

Joe Puff is the Vice President of Truck Technology and Maintenance for NationaLease. He has more than 35 years of experience in complex sales and fleet operations, including extensive experience in commercial vehicle maintenance. Joe is responsible for advising NationaLease members and the National Account team of new truck technology, industry trends, and maintenance best practices.

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