A harmonized approach to fuel supply around the world
Anders Röj is responsible for coordinating fuel-related questions at the Volvo Group, one of the world’s leading suppliers of transport-related products and services, and has been involved in fuel standardization work for over 20 years.
One of the biggest challengers facing automotive manufacturing today is to find solutions that can really slow the pace of climate change, and we at Volvo are actively monitoring fuel-related developments as part of this. Biocomponents have been the subject of particular attention recently. It is important that fuels do not undermine vehicle performance or increase the environmental footprint of using them. New biofuel blends also need to be brought to market in a harmonized way so as to avoid creating unnecessary confusion or, in a worst-case scenario, providing consumers at service stations in the EU, for example, with the wrong fuel choices.
As an automotive manufacturer, we at Volvo need to know what types of fuel are available in which countries. We actively participate in standardization work on traffic fuels in Europe through CEN and in the US through ASTM. As part of our involvement, we highlight the quality issues that the industry sees as important. We also bring our experience, based on feedback from the field on how our cars perform when they are filled up with fuels in different markets, to the table. Back in 1998, the automotive industry published the Worldwide Fuel Charter (WWFC), linking emission levels and fuel quality requirements in the EU, the US, and Japan. The WWDC was designed to have a concrete impact on emissions and prevent damage being caused to vehicles’ engines and other systems, and continues to be updated regularly.
The UN ECE Group in Geneva – in the shape of WP29, the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations – is working to regulate fuels worldwide. The low level of interest by the oil industry in this work, however, has meant that its results have been modest so far. Nevertheless, the goal is to achieve global fuel regulation capable of both improving vehicle reliability and reducing the impact vehicles have on the environment more effectively than is possible today. The majority of the standardization work being done in Europe at the moment is concentrating on questions related to biocomponents: ethanol in the case of gasoline and E85 fuel and FAME in the case of diesel. The main issues involved with conventional diesel fuel – such as sulfur, cetane number, and density – are relatively well-managed in Europe. The same cannot always be said elsewhere, even in North America. Volvo is committed to supporting efforts aimed at producing high-quality fuels with a low level of environmental impact.
Fuels suitable for use in diesel engines can be produced from virtually any organic material with the right ignition properties today. All engines do not perform equally efficiently with all fuels, however. Some fuels require modifications to be made to engines or other vehicle systems. The quality of the FAME available on many markets also does not match required levels, for example. Particular problems are caused by FAME’s poor stability and cold weather performance compared to hydrocarbon-based diesel. It would be desirable, therefore, to see an increase in the amount of hydrocarbon-based renewable diesel on the traffic fuel market. I believe that developing the regulations covering fuel quality and vehicle emissions hand in hand is essential.
Our point of view
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