Volvo plug-in hybrid - click above for hi-res gallery

Volvo is building several plug-in hybrid prototypes of its V70 station wagon to begin field tests this fall in Europe. The cars are using lithium ion battery packs that will be supplied by Indiana-based Ener1. The 11.3 kWh packs will provide 31 miles of electric driving range through the rear wheels. Once the batteries reach the depletion point, the standard diesel engine at the front takes over. It's not known at this point if the car will use regenerative braking to replenish the battery and provide conventional hybrid operation. If it does, this would be a through-the-road hybrid system similar to the one being developed by Peugeot and branded as HYbrid4. Volvo's intent is to get its plug-in hybrid system into full production by 2012.

While this collaboration with Volvo is good for Ener1, what of the company's other Scandinavian partner, Th!nk? No mention is made of the Norwegian EV maker but there is no reason to believe this project will affect Th!nk one way or the other. Th!nk has plenty of its own financial problems to deal with right now. Ener1's press release is after the jump.

[Source: Ener1,]


Ener1 Lithium-Ion Batteries Hit the Streets in Volvo Demonstration Fleet

NEW YORK, July 13 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Volvo Car Corporation has chosen advanced, American-made lithium-ion battery systems designed and produced by Ener1, Inc. (Nasdaq: HEV - News) to power a pair of plug-in hybrid V70 demonstration cars being put through their paces across Europe this fall as part of a rigorous development program leading up to the planned 2012 commercial launch of a production plug-in model. The project is a joint venture between Volvo and Vattenfall, one of Europe's largest electric utility companies and a leading proponent of electric vehicle infrastructure build-out.

With a single charge from an ordinary household socket, the cars can run up to 31 miles (50 kilometers) using only battery electric power, more than meeting average daily commuting needs for the vast majority of drivers. Beyond the electric-only range, a highly fuel-efficient diesel engine kicks seamlessly in to power the vehicle without interruption.

"These cars and the battery systems constitute a tremendous engineering achievement and a major step forward in the commercial evolution of electric drivetrain technology," said Ener1 CEO Charles Gassenheimer. "Volvo is every bit as demanding as you would expect. They approached this program with the same relentless passion for safety, quality and reliability that made them famous. You can't ask for a better performance measure than that."

Made by Ener1's manufacturing arm, EnerDel, the batteries were custom built for this real world test program, to be operated in one of the most advanced automotive and utility partnerships in the industry. A standard production car was deliberately chosen as the platform in order to prove broad applicability of the technology in otherwise conventional automobiles. The diesel engine will eventually run on renewable biodiesel as well as standard blends.

"Efficient, durable high-performance batteries are a vital element in plug-in hybrid and electric drive vehicles. They have to work year-in, year-out under harsh conditions and extreme temperatures, which means engineering and design are absolutely critical," said Anders Bjornberg, Hybrid Vehicle Specialist at Volvo Cars Hybrid Centre.

The cars will be used to gather information and experience about the driving habits and performance expectations of everyday motorists using the new technology, as well as their actual charging needs. Vattenfall will test different concepts for high-speed home charging, as well as charging stations in public places, where owners pay to fuel with electricity instead of liquid fossil fuels.

The partnership between Volvo and Vattenfall began in January, 2007, and has been advancing on a fast track. With the current project, both companies say cooperation is now being taken to the next level. The goal is to produce plug-in hybrid vehicles and introducing them on the market as early as 2012.

Vattenfall is Europe's fifth largest generator of electricity, with operations in Denmark, Finland, Germany, United Kingdom, Poland and Sweden. Vattenfall is active at all stages of the electricity value chain - generation, transmission, distribution and sales. Vattenfall also generates, distributes and sells heat, and conducts energy trading and lignite mining.

SafeHarbor Statement:

Certain statements made in this press release constitute forward-looking statements that are based on management's expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions. Words such as "expects," "anticipates," "plans," "believes," "scheduled," "estimates" and variations of these words and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, as amended. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. Therefore, actual future results and trends may differ materially from what is forecast in forward-looking statements due to a variety of factors. All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release and the company does not undertake any obligation to update or publicly release any revisions to forward-looking statements to reflect events, circumstances or changes in expectations after the date of this press release.

About Ener1, Inc.:

Ener1 develops and manufactures compact, high performance lithium-ion batteries to power the next generation of hybrid and electric vehicles. The publicly traded company (Nasdaq: HEV - News) is led by an experienced team of engineers and energy system experts at its EnerDel subsidiary located in Indiana. EnerDel has developed proprietary battery systems based on technology originally pioneered with the assistance of the Argonne National Lab.

Ener1 is seeking to become the first company to mass-produce a cost-competitive lithium-ion battery for hybrid and electric vehicles. Demand for battery solutions is being driven by a need to reduce dependence on oil as well as growing concern about vehicle emissions. In addition to the automobile market, applications for Ener1 lithium-ion battery technology include medical, military, aerospace, electric utility and other growing markets.

Major shareholders of Ener1 include Ener1 Group, Inc., a privately held, global investment and advisory firm, and ITOCHU Corporation, a Japanese trading company and distributor of manufacturing equipment essential to lithium-ion battery production. ITOCHU has annual revenue of approximately $90 billion and offices in more than 80 countries. Ener1 has also received funding from a growing number of institutional investors.

In addition to battery technology, Ener1 develops commercial fuel cell products through its EnerFuel subsidiary and nanotechnology-based materials and manufacturing processes for batteries and other applications through its NanoEner subsidiary.

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