updated 6/13/2005 12:46:25 PM ET 2005-06-13T16:46:25

Volvo Trucks and a Swedish partner on Monday announced a joint venture to produce power units that use fuel cells to reduce diesel truck emissions. The technology doesn't replace the engine, but allows truck drivers to idle with the power unit instead of diesel.

A single truck could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, which many scientists tie to global warming, by 20 to 30 tons per year, Volvo said, citing statistics by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxide could see similar declines.

No cost or timetable for deployment was announced, but Volvo Technology and partner Statoil said they had created the company Powercell to develop patented technology that they said is so compact it can be installed in standard trucks.

The fuel cell is powered by hydrogen produced from the diesel onboard a truck.

"Through use of fuel cell technology in the power unit, you can reduce emissions sharply, while at the same time the unit can be made substantially smaller," Volvo Technology manager Goran Wirmark said in a statement announcing the joint venture.

The partners said their product would be particularly useful in the United States where, they said, "many truck drivers are forced to run at idle to provide the electrical power for air-conditioning and other equipment that is needed for the driver to live onboard."

Citing a Truck Manufacturers Association estimate of some 500,000 live-onboard trucks in North America, the partners stated that "if the emissions from these trucks could be reduced by 30 tons per truck and year, this would represent a reduction of 15 million tons."

Volvo's presence in the United States includes the Volvo truck line as well as Mack Trucks, which it owns.

Wirmark said he expected such idling technology to "also be used in boats, aircraft and other mobile units in which there is a need for a compact, environmentally sound and efficient power supply."

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