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While Toyota is clearly not enamored with the concept of series hybrids (at least publicly) plenty of other companies are jumping on the idea. The latest to join the party is Volvo with a new concept that they will unveil next week in Frankfurt. The ReCharge is a plug-in series hybrid based on the compact C30 hatchback. The all-wheel drive propulsion will be provided courtesy of wheel motors at all four corners.

Juice for the motors will come from a lithium polymer battery pack mounted in the trunk with sufficient capacity for 62 miles of electric driving. Once the battery state of charge dips to thirty percent, a 1.6L four cylinder flex-fuel engine bolted to a generator starts up to re-charge the battery. The ReCharge can also be plugged in to replenish the battery energy. The wheel motors and generator were developed with PML Flightlink of England (creators of the 640hp electric Mini).

The engine-generator has enough power to provide juice to a house in the event of power-failure. Thanks to the range of battery and the fact that the engine can operate at its most efficient speed, the ReCharge can do a 93 mile drive on 2.8L of gas for 124mpg (US). A full charge (presumably on a 220V circuit as used in Europe) comes in three hours while one hour at the plug will provide enough power for a thirty mile jaunt. There's a video after the jump in addition to the press release.

[Source: Volvo]


PRESS RELEASE:
GROUNDBREAKING PLUG-IN HYBRID – THE VOLVO RECHARGE CONCEPT – UNVEILED AT FRANKFURT MOTOR SHOW

* Plug-in hybrid with battery-only range of over 60 miles
* 66 per cent lower CO2 emissions than best hybrids available today
* 1.6 Flexifuel engine provides backup and recharge power

Volvo is unveiling an innovative plug-in hybrid at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The ReCharge Concept is a specially designed Volvo C30 with individual electric wheel motors and batteries that can be charged via a regular electrical outlet. When fully charged the Volvo ReCharge Concept can be driven approximately 62 miles on battery power alone before the car's four-cylinder 1.6 Flexifuel engine1 is needed to power the car and recharge the battery. The concept car also retains the Volvo C30's lively and sporty drive thanks to an acceleration figure of 0-62mph in 9 seconds and a top speed of 100mph.

"This is a groundbreaking innovation for sustainable transportation. This plug-in hybrid car, when used as intended, should have about 66 percent lower emissions of carbon dioxide compared with the best hybrid cars available on the market today. Emissions may be even lower if most of the electricity comes from CO2-friendly sources such as biogas, hydropower and nuclear power. A person driving less than 60 miles per day will rarely need to visit a filling station. Also, thanks to the excellent electrical range from a fuel consumption angle, the Volvo ReCharge Concept is exceptionally kind to the car owner's wallet," commented Magnus Jonsson, Senior Vice President Research & Development at Volvo Cars.

Operating costs are estimated to be about 80 percent lower compared to a similar petrol-powered car when using battery power alone and even drivers who cover more than the battery-only range will benefit from the ReCharge Concept. For a 150km (93 mile) drive starting with a full charge, the car will require less than 2.8 litres of fuel, giving the car an effective fuel economy of 1.9 l/100km (124mpg).

The only extra cost will be the electricity used during charging. The Volvo ReCharge Concept can be charged at any regular electric plug socket at convenient locations such as at home or work and a full recharge will take three hours. However, even a quick one hour charge provides enough power to cover just over 30 miles.

During a journey the combustion engine starts up automatically when 70 percent of the battery power has been used up. However, the driver also has the option of controlling the four-cylinder Flexifuel engine manually via a button in the control panel. This allows the driver to start the engine earlier in order to maximise battery charge, for instance when out on a motorway in order to save battery capacity for driving through the next town.

An electric motor at each wheel
The Volvo ReCharge Concept combines a number of the latest technological innovations into a so-called "series hybrid" where there is no mechanical connection between the engine and the wheels.

* The battery pack integrated into the boot uses lithium-polymer battery technology. The batteries are intended to have a useful life beyond that of the car itself.
* Four electric motors, one at each wheel, provide independent traction power.
* Four-cylinder 1.6-litre Flexifuel engine drives an advanced generator that efficiently powers the wheel motors when the battery is depleted.

"There is a considerable difference between the Volvo plug-in hybrid and today's hybrids. Today's hybrids use the battery only for short periods to assist the combustion engine. Volvo's solution is designed for most people to run on electric power all the time, while providing the extra security that comes with having a combustion engine as a secondary source of electrical power," says Ichiro Sugioka, project manager for the Volvo ReCharge Concept.

Electric car with a combustion engine as backup
The Volvo ReCharge Concept is a battery electric car with an efficient generator, an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), that steps in when battery charge becomes insufficient for adequate driving performance. The APU is designed to distribute electrical power to the individual motors at each wheel. Since the combustion engine only powers the APU, it can operate in an optimal fashion, both for regulated emissions and CO2. The APU is powerful enough to supply an entire house with electricity. For example it could, in principle, with minor modifications, give the car owner an electricity generator right at his front door in the event of a power failure.

Specially developed electric motors
The central electrical components in the Volvo ReCharge Concept – the generator for the APU and the wheel motors – were developed together with British electromagnetic specialists PML Flightlink.

With an individual electric motor at each wheel, weight distribution as well as mechanical efficiency and traction are maximised and the friction in mechanical gears is eliminated. Since the car does not have the transmission found in ordinary cars, there is no need for a gear lever.

To help maximise the environmental benefits, the Volvo ReCharge Concept has high-efficiency tyres developed by Michelin which are specially designed to accommodate the wheel motors. The car also has All-Wheel Drive in the truest sense of the term as power to each wheel is controlled individually.

The energy that is generated during braking is transmitted to the battery pack. When the system is ultimately developed, traditional wheel brakes will be completely replaced by electrical brakes with minimal energy wasted through friction. To ensure reliable operation of the drivetrain and braking system, driver inputs are fed into a quadruple-redundant electronic control system.


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  • 29 Comments
      • 5 Months Ago
      Nice design.

      Think of generating the electricity from solar or wind installed on the home. This would be very energy efficient and ecological.

      Wonder about the battery design. Also if the ICE would have problems being off for extended periods of time. Current ICEs like to be used regularly. Maybe the on board computer would keep track of this and run the ICE once and awhile to keep it lubricated.
      As an owner of a 04 Prius (50+mpg, 70+mph, AC on, 4 people, trunk full of camping gear) glad to see a US affiliated car company working on this giant step toward energy efficiency.
      I’ll get in line.
      • 5 Months Ago
      "Are they nuts"

      Yes. Somehow an entire team of automotive and electrical engineers forgot that incredibly basic concept entirely and omitted it from all their planning and discussion. But thank God you, some random naysayer on a car blog, caught their error!

      Seriously, what do you think they are, a bunch of totally retarded chowderheads?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I agree with Dan's comments:

      >> Saying is one thing. Doing is another. Wheel motors are very heavy (hard for the
      >> suspension) and a high current cable attach to them taking all that flexing does not
      >>make sense. That why I think this is all vaporware.

      However, I think this could be addressed by mounting the motor on the chassis and linking it to the wheel/suspension with a shaft and u-joint.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Is this like the Maximum Bob CADM Hype Mobile, a.k.a. Chevy Volt, or can it actually be driven?

      PML Flightlink supposedly put a Mini on the test track, so one would assume that it can be done.

      BTW, the Mini prototype had advanced lithium batteries AND super capacitors. And, cost a little less than the Gross National Product of some small countries to build.
      • 5 Months Ago
      KC... I read here in the UK that the ReCharge is slated to sell for £18,000 or around $36,000. Not too bad if its battery really lasts 15 years as they say. With gasoline at around $9 a gallon in Europe you could easily save $3,000 a year. The car could pay for itself! T2... I'm pretty sure the generator drives the motors directly, so not all of the power will go into and out of the battery. It'll just be trickle recharged ready for the next time out.

      It's a step in the right direction towards the full EVs that are inevitable once the battery tech catches up.
      • 5 Months Ago
      If it is the same battery as in the Escape, then it would have either a 100k or 150k mile warranty supposedly.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Isn't this basically how the diesel locomotives have worked for years, except with a battery added?
      • 5 Months Ago
      Saying is one thing. Doing is another. Wheel motors are very heavy (hard for the suspension) and a high current cable attach to them taking all that flexing does not make sense. That why I think this is all vaporware.
      • 5 Months Ago
      I WANT ONE, HOW CAN I GET IT?
      • 5 Months Ago
      This sounds impressive. Do you know how much it will cost? Do we have more details on the battery?
      • 5 Months Ago
      I also understand that in addition to the ability to do away with major drive train components and transmission, there need not be any direct steering linkage as steering can be controlled via wired variance of the power going to each wheel motor. I am not sure if this is true, but it seems logical. Anyway, I just want to know when and where I can buy this car for use in the US. Anyone who hears anything, please let me know!
      • 5 Months Ago
      It would be really great to see this car also using ultra-capacitors (like this mini: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/08/the_hybrid_mini.php) in addition to the batteries ... or better yet instead of the batteries ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercapacitor). Ultra-capacitors already have a power density that kicks the butt of any battery, and the energy density has been increasing dramatically and seems to be headed for even more impressive heights.

      Combine all of this with Dr. George Olah's reversible methane fuel cell, and thin film (or quantum dot) photovoltaics and you would have the holy grail of automotive efficiency without sacrificing road scorching POWER.
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