FPT Industrial, Turin, Italy, a brand of CNH Industrial specialising in the design, production and sale of powertrains for on and off-road vehicles, marine and power generation applications, has launched a project for the development of alternative fuel in heavy-duty engines.
FPT Motorenforschung, Arbon, Switzerland, the company’s research and development centre, is developing the use of DME (Dimethyl-ether, CH3-O-CH3), an alternative fuel used in an 11-litre heavy duty engine. The centre is one of seven global R&D locations. Common Rail technology and the HI-eSCR (High Efficiency Selective Catalytic Reduction system) were both developed at the Arbon centre.
DME is said to be a suitable fuel for compression ignition engines and can be produced from several renewable sources. Its chemical properties allow for, with the correct engine hardware configuration and calibration, significantly low NOx and particle emissions, whilst maintaining high engine efficiency. FPT has stated, however, that there are still some challenges in the use of DME as a fuel, particularly in terms of the fuel injection equipment.
DME has been industrially used for decades, mainly as a propellant in aerosol cans as it is non-toxic, odourless and can be absorbed in the troposphere. From a storage and refuelling point of view, DME is like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG): liquid at very moderate pressure levels.
The project is funded by Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) and the test bench is operated at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in Dübendorf, Switzerland, where the company states it has invested heavily in the infrastructure adaptations necessary for DME.
FPT Industries explains that the overall goal of the project is to advance the understanding of using DME as an alternative to diesel in the industrial goods sector and demonstrate clean combustion at comparable efficiency levels. Since DME combustion produces practically no particle emissions, a comparably simple SCR system, without the need for a particle filter may be enough to comply with strict emission standards.
The project’s first experimental data reportedly shows promising results in terms of CO2 reduction, along with significantly low NOx and particle emissions, together with similar engine efficiency to diesel.
The company states that it is facing a major challenge with the requirement to reach the European CO2 emission targets in 2025 and 2030. The use of alternative fuels and e-fuels are possible paths to addressing these challenges.