Oberon Fuels Inc., a California-based producer of fuel-grade dimethyl ether (DME), has announced it is partnering with Ford Motor Co., Forschungsvereinigung Verbrennungskraftmaschinen e. V. (FVV), and other FVV member companies on a three-year, EUR 3.5 million (approximately $4 million) project to research, analyze and test the potential of DME and oligomethyl ether (OME) fuel in passenger cars and heavy-duty truck engines. Ultimately, the project partners will aim to build a production passenger car powered by DME for on-road testing.
FVV is a worldwide research network of 170 international member companies across the engine supply chain, including researchers, engine manufacturers, component suppliers, and fuel providers.
‘We must continue to find ways to meet the growing global demand for liquid transportation fuels with lower-carbon fuels and more efficient, cleaner-burning engines if we are to ensure the long-term sustainability of our planet,’ says Ralf Thee, project manager with FVV. ‘This is our most ambitious project yet, and we are pleased to be working with partners who share our commitment to innovation.’
DME is a fuel that can be derived from renewable sources. According to Oberon, DME offers a high cetane number, and DME-powered engines are expected to benefit from almost soot-free combustion, higher thermal efficiency and enhanced cold-start properties.
‘Ford is committed to helping develop the market for alternative fuels, and DME has exciting characteristics,’ says Werner Willems, Ph.D., a technical specialist for powertrain combustion systems with Ford of Europe, and project leader for this initiative. ‘Not only does DME offer the efficiency and torque desired in a diesel engine, but it can be made from renewable waste streams and reduce the long-term cost of ownership, all of which are important to our customers.’
As mentioned earlier, the project will investigate the use of DME and OME as diesel replacements in passenger cars and heavy-duty vehicle engines, respectively, and will result in an OEM-produced DME passenger car. Technical preparations and combustion engine development will span the first two years of the project, with the third year focused on building demonstrator cars based on the Ford Mondeo.
Oberon Fuels says it will supply DME for the project from its small-scale pilot plant in Brawley, Calif., which has a nameplate capacity of 4,500 gallons of DME per day.
In this international collaboration, Oberon will work with Ford, RWTH Aachen University, the Technical University of Munich, FVV, TUEV, DENSO, and IAV Automotive Engineering. Through the FVV, all automotive manufacturers will gain access to the results and findings of the project, further building the market for DME as a diesel alternative. This project is partly funded by the German Ministry of Economy.
‘By bringing together numerous stakeholders up and down the supply chain, we will be able to accelerate the process of bringing a new, sustainable fuel to a wide range of vehicles,’ says Rebecca Boudreaux, Ph.D., president of Oberon Fuels.