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Volvo C30 DrivE electric vehicle – Click above for high-res image gallery

During a presentation on the Volvo electric C30 today at the EnerDel facility in Fishers, IN, we heard a word we really didn't expect to hear: ethanol. We asked Lennart Stegland, Volvo's director of special vehicles, to explain what the biofuel has to do with the all-electric commuter car, and here's how it works: instead of using the battery to heat the batteries or the cabin, a small liquid-fuel heater is built into the car. See, it gets cold in Scandanavia, and using ethanol makes sure the driver does not have to accept any compromises to go electric, Stegland said, adding:
At zero degrees Centidrade or slightly colder, you lose about 35-40 percent of the range if you use electricty [to heat the battery and or the cabin]. What we decided is we can have the opportunity to have this fuel-operated heater, which has a capacity of about six kilowatts, so that will reduce the temperature [where the range loss starts] by about 20 degrees Centigrade. Then we use the battery only for mobility. All the heat is taken from the ethanol.
The system is a gasoline heater that was adapted to burn E85. The ethanol fuel tank is filled using the same fuel door as is used on a standard C30 to gas up and holds around 14 liters of fuel, enough to get you through about two weeks' worth of very cold weather if you keep the car plugged in whenever possible.

If the C30 makes it to the U.S. (a possibility sometime after 2013), the liquid fuel for the heater might be standard gasoline, Stegland said, since the system will be adapted market by market. As far as we know, Volvo is the only company using this method. At first glance, it seems really, really strange. On second thought, though, it kind of makes sense. The third thought? Well, that one is yours.

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Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by EnerDel


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 40 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like it. Burning fuel for what it is best for: heat.

      You don't need a lot of fuel storage or a big heater. Just enough for a month or so, and the fuel up as needed. For warm climate, don't use it.




      • 5 Years Ago
      Seems very clever and practical.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Heh-- E85 rules! Indiana has more than 100 E85 stations, Illinois, more than 200. So it wouldn't be hard to find the stuff around Fishers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like the idea of getting more range and efficiency out of the batteries by keeping them warm. But at 1 liter per day, the gasoline consumption could equal the electricity consumption!

      Also, I don't like the idea of a gasoline heater burning while the car is parked in an unheated garage.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This isn't a new or radical idea. Sounds a lot like the Webasto BlueHeat system. I'd bet $100 that's what it is.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If you still need to fuel a car, it's not a proper EV !

      True EV-drivers would never buy a car like this, because there are several other things that can be done to heat an EV.

      Please read comment #22 from Paul carefully, and also the article in the link.

      Thank you Paul, that's just the info I needed.
        • 5 Months Ago
        HenkFromHolland,

        The information from comment 22 is interesting (although certainly nothing revolutionary there), however there are still problems with this.
        By only heating a car's seat and A/B pillars in a cold, dry climate such as Canada, where -40 celsius is not uncommon 3 months of the year, condensation from body heat/breathing causes SIGNIFICANT fogging of all vehicle windows. To overcome this, in a conventional vehicle, the air conditioning is run to "dehumidify" the air, not cool it. Or, the heater is placed to blow hot air on the windows, "defogging" them.

        Essentially, sitting on an "electric blanket" in your car would be equivalent to driving a car with frosted privacy glass windows, in other words, impossible.

        Also, keep in mind that the "electric blanket" argument is circumstantial, as electric blankets are not more energy efficient than electric space heaters. They merely use 1/10th the electrical power to heat 1/10th the material. Both space heaters and electric blankets are nearly 100% efficient. The difference is they are accomplishing different tasks. In order to heat a room with an electric blanket, you'd have to run it ten times as long as a space heater.

        There are no easy answers to heating a vehicle in a cold climate, and the idea of a gas heater for cabin/battery heating makes a lot of sense.
      • 5 Years Ago
      In cold climates this makes sense. Some owners of the old air cooled engine VWs used to install supplemental gasoline space heaters as the heater on the stock vehicle had low output.
        • 5 Years Ago
        My '78 Westy had a gas heater.
        I was too scared to ever even try using it (having acquired the bus many years into its use).
      • 5 Years Ago
      Gasoline heaters work fine on ethanol/E85 so there is no need for diffrent heaters on different markets.

      I think a small ethanol powered generator/range-extender where the excess heat can be used to heat the car and the generated electricity to charge the battery and/or to heat the car electric would be a more flexible and better solution.



      • 5 Years Ago
      Being that waste heat is what combustion is good for, this is brilliant.
        • 5 Years Ago
        But if the whole purpose of the combustion is to make heat, then you can't call it "waste heat", right?

        Liquid fuels are very efficient when what you're trying to make is heat ;)
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm guessing this battery pack probably uses cabin air for temperature control, which a couple of hatchback EVs also utilize. The problem with this design is you need to warm up the entire cabin just to keep the battery pack at a decent temperature, which is wildly inefficient and allows the heat to easily leak out (also you can't take advantage of efficiency improvements from heated seats). A completely thermally insulated and liquid cooled/heated battery pack design is likely less susceptible to cold weather.

      But this kind of solution is still useful for colder climates and allows for a simpler and cheaper pack design. Fuel based heating should be very efficient so it's not a particularly bad idea as long as the emissions are handled.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This heater could be designed to run on almost any flammable liquid fuel, though ethanol and E85 would be particularly well suited and readily available. The heater can be designed to extract as much heat as possible from the fuel, using less fuel for more usable heat than an internal combustion engine would.

      Now they could have used a small IC engine and got a range extender in the bargain, but that would have weighed a lot more than this heater, and would waste more heat.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I was a leasee of the 1997 Honda EV Plus and I remember reading in the user manual that units for colder climates had a liquid fueled heater. If I remember correctly the manual said it had a small gasoline tank for the heater that could be filled at the gas station. My unit did not have the liquid fueled heater nor did I see one with it installed myself. So this idea or implementation is certainly not a new one.
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