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Maybe they should've called it the "Volt-vo." In Frankfurt, Volvo will pull the wraps off the ReCharge concept, a C30-based plug-in hybrid vehicle that combines a 1.6L flexible-fuel engine connected to an auxiliary power unit (APU), which is in powers a set of in-wheel motors. It's a series hybrid, much like the Chevy Volt. The ReCharge's EV-only range on a full battery is said to be 62 miles, and under normal operating conditions, the car's engine wouldn't be activated to help with recharging until 70% of the battery's charge has been exhausted. Volvo says that on a 90 mile trip (150 km), for example, the ReCharge would essentially average 124 mpg (1.9L/100 km).

A full charge when plugged into a standard power outlet takes approximately 3 hours, but Volvo says that even 1 hour plugged in gives the car a 50% charge. Regenerative braking while underway helps charge the battery pack on the fly, and the driver can summon the combustion engine at any time to maximize charging if the situation is favorable (such as during highway driving) to get the car ready for straight EV duty at the next local stop. The ReCharge uses a lithium-polymer battery designed to last longer than the car's operating life. CO2 emissions, a key concern in Europe where the concept is being unveiled, are 66% better than what's afforded by current hybrid cars in the marketplace. We'll be on hand to bring you full details on Volvo's answer to the Chevy Volt next week.

[Source: Volvo]


* 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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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm still waiting! I'm waiting for one of the Hybrid/eLECTRIC VEHICLE manufacturers to make a fold up wooden pole with a loop on one end and an extension cord with a plug on the other so the driver can hook over a power line to recharge the batteries like they had in the late 1800s! I'm serious, it was part of the tools in the old Electric cars! I wrote an article some years back called "THE BIRTH AND THE INEVITABLE, THE RE-BIRTH OF THE SMOKELESS CARRIAGE"! In other words; THE HISTORY OF THE ELECTRIC VEHICLE and, it had a picture in it showing the pole hanging on a power line recharging a car!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I love the idea. I question the glow in the dark Tonka toy design however. I would hope the design would turn more pratical if and when it reachess the consumer.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Alex - please correct the following mistake.

      Press release:
      "During a journey the combustion engine starts up automatically when 70 percent of the battery power has been used up. " I.e. when state of charge drops below 30%.

      Autoblog summary:
      "[...] the car's engine wouldn't be activated to help with recharging until 70% of the battery life has been exhausted." I.e. when the car is ~7 years old, which makes no sense whatsoever.


      On a related note, you should point out that Volvo's marketing geniuses only count the liquid fuel that you put into the tank toward their MPG figure. This is point blank false advertising, and it is YOUR job to call manufacturers on such fibs.

      Electricity has to be produced. Since a variety of fuels are used for that, the only meaningful metric for comparing a PHEV to other propulsion concepts is aggregate CO2 emissions per km based on on-board fuel consumption *plus* the grid mix in the market into which the vehicle is sold. If nuclear is part of the grid mix, radioactive waste per km should also be listed. In other words, the numbers will be substantially different for e.g. Germany (lots of coal & gas) and France (lots of nuclear).

      Arguably, it would be unfair to expect car makers to keep track of the grid mix in every target market. Therefore, they should advertise the efficiency parameters of their PHEV concepts as follows:

      1 - battery life expectancy in terms of both total all-electric distance driven and calendar years (whichever applies first).

      This means a PHEV needs not one but two odometers: one for distance traveled on grid electricity alone, the other for distance traveled once on liquid fuels. Without that information, it will be very difficult to arrive at fair resale values. In practice, that means dealers and second-hand buyers would likely make pessimistic assumptions about remaining battery life and offer only lowball bids.

      Volvo does not indicate the battery chemistry nor does it make any claims about longevity.

      2 - kWh/100km while on grid power (or miles per kWh if you prefer), based on the official drive cycle (NEDC in Europe).

      Volvo does not provide this number.

      3 - maximum range on grid power alone, using maximum and minimum SOC levels associated with the quoted battery life expectancy. The metric can be produced by repeating the official drive cycle until the lower SOC threshold is reached.

      The 100km range quoted in this Volvo press release may be computed this way or, on a full charge that is drawn down completely - which would sharply reduce battery life expectancy. Marketing is, after all, the art of telling the truth selectively. As it is, I just don't know what to make of Volvo's claim.

      4 - L/100km or MPG once on liquid fuel, where the distance already covered on grid power does *not* count! In this example: 50km on 2.8L Euro95 = 5.6L/100km, i.e. about what you'd get with a good conventional drivetrain in the NEDC.

      Ergo, out of four essential metrics, Volvo provides just the last one and its value is totally misleading. The PHEV concept as such is remarkable and to be applauded, but the associated press release is perhaps best used in a bathroom stall.

      Based on the four proposed metrics, NGOs and consumer advocate organizations could produce CO2 + nuclear waste metrics and, compute fuel cost per km/mile based on various real-world daily range and duty cycles. This would then help consumers decide if any given PHEV model is the right choice for them.

      All this sounds horribly complicated, but that's because the technology, ecological impact and economics of PHEVs really are. There simply are a lot more degrees of freedom than in a conventional drivetrain.
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Maybe series hybrids are finally coming around... it's about time. I too am unsure about wheel motors. I don't think unsprung weight is a big concern with this car, but i do worry about durability of the motors when you put them down there to feel all the potholes and salt and ice and grime. That engine does seem entirely too large. I would expect 500cc or so to be plenty to keep a car of that size charged.
      • 7 Years Ago
      we just had the lights go out and allthe ower due to shortages in the heat wave where I live. We can't build power plants due to all the enviros blocking them. Can't use nuclear because of the waste boogeyman. Can't drill for oil, can't use coal. and the cars are going to be powered by electricity....LIghts out everyone.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Does anyone know/can cite a source for how long lithium polymer batteries last? Life time of a vehicle sounds like kind of a stretch. Not that it's a huge deal because this vehicle would probably cost $60K to make and about 100 people would actually want to buy it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Looks nice,
      Though technology is unproven yet and will take time to mature, it's time to move forward and bring new technology. mass adoption of technology will bring the cost down.
      • 7 Years Ago
      My next car, if I can afford it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      BUILT IT!!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Volvo please build this. It looks like you could have this out before the Volt and you'vegot my purchase if this car will be below EUR 35,000. Just go and do it.

      People will IMO actually be more likely to buy this car at an even higher price with the series hybrid inbuilt rather than at the current steep price for the non-hybrid.
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