Volvo is introducing a series-produced plug-in hybrid as early as 2012. Pure electric power from the battery will cover the daily transport needs of 75 percent of European drivers. For longer distances, an efficient diesel hybrid engine automatically takes over. The combined range is about 1200 kilometres. Carbon dioxide emissions will average out at 49 grams per kilometre, with fuel consumption of 1.9 litres per 100 km.
Volvo is convinced that in the future, customers will continue to want safe, comfortable cars with good driving properties and generous load-carrying ability. Irrespective of whether they are powered by electricity or other fuels.
Plug-in hybrids are an attractive car type offering the user the best from both electric power and conventional drivelines: extremely low fuel consumption and CO2 levels, combined with a long range and high performance.
"The new Volvo plug-in will be a truly enjoyable car to drive, featuring Volvo's high safety and comfort standards. At the same time, CO2 levels and fuel consumption will be as low as half that available on the market today." says Stephen Odell, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation.
Volvo plug-in hybrid advantages:
Electric power with CO2 levels close to zero
Electricity is highly suited as a car fuel. The electric motor has a high efficiency rating and consumes about one-fifth as much energy as a corresponding engine running on fossil fuel. Volvo's plug-in hybrid cars will be propelled by a robust electric motor that receives its power from a lithium-ion battery. What is more, additional electricity is generated every time the car brakes.
The battery is conveniently recharged at home via a regular wall socket. Electricity as a fuel is far cheaper than petrol or diesel, which results in low operating costs. The battery will take about five hours to recharge.
The range will be about 1200 kilometres, just like in a conventional diesel car. It will be able to be driven up to 50 kilometres on pure electric power and when running on the battery, emissions from the exhaust pipe will be non-existent. If the battery is recharged using electricity from renewable sources, the net emission of CO2 will be close to zero, even in a lifecycle perspective. Volvo's dealers will offer customers who buy a plug-in hybrid a special contract for the supply of renewable energy. This agreement has been created in cooperation with the company's partner, Swedish electricity supplier Vattenfall.
Efficient diesel engines as a complement
As a complement to the electric motor, one of Volvo's fuel-efficient diesel engines will also be fitted under the bonnet. It will be optimised to run on renewable synthetic diesel and will meet the tough forthcoming exhaust emission requirements.
The diesel engine can be run separately or in combination with the electric motor for optimal power and energy utilisation. For example, the diesel engine can support or replace electric power at high speeds or when the battery charge drops, while the electric motor can offer additional torque at low engine revs. Being able to combine these two power sources makes it possible to offer high performance and trouble-free use by the owner.
Most car trips cover short distances, to and from work. This means that the forthcoming Volvo plug-in hybrid will cover the transport requirements of most people. For longer distances, the diesel engine starts up automatically, giving the car the same properties and range as a conventional diesel car.
According to the standardised NEDC certification driving cycle, CO2 emissions from Volvo's plug-in hybrid will be lower than 50 grams/kilometre. Cars with emissions below 50 grams of CO2/kilometre will probably have the most favourable incentives in many European countries. In addition to tax relief, these countries will offer a discount of about 5000 euros on the purchase price, a move that is expected to set the standard for the rest of Europe too.
"We are focusing strongly on plug-in hybrids in order to meet the demands for low CO2 emissions and to provide sustainable road transportation. We naturally expect that the relevant authorities will offer subsidies to boost developments, speeding up the creation of a market for this type of car," says Stephen Odell.
Today's electricity capacity covers requirements
Plug-in hybrids consume less electricity than most people believe. The fact is that a single medium-sized wind-power station can produce renewable electricity to cover the annual consumption of 1000-2000 plug-in hybrids in normal use. Even a large number of plug-in hybrids on the roads would be able to be supplied within the framework of the electric grid's existing capacity. If 15 percent of Europe's cars consisted of plug-in hybrids, this would mean that total electricity requirements would only increase by between 1 and 3 percent.
Through simple household energy savings, for instance by switching off the PC and TV overnight and using low-energy bulbs, the total energy requirement would probably be able to be kept at current levels. To put this into perspective, the energy-efficiency improvements that Volvo Cars has implemented in its factories in Ghent and Göteborg over the past four years correspond to the annual electricity consumption of 15,000 plug-in hybrid cars.
Plug-in hybrids - market potential
The purchase price of a plug-in hybrid is expected to be considerably higher than for a conventional diesel car since the batteries are still expensive. Fuel costs on electric power will be about one-third compared with driving on diesel, and this partially compensates for the higher purchase price, although not fully.
Volvo Cars assesses that plug-in hybrids will be commercially viable for certain customer categories in 2012, gradually widening in appeal as battery price and performance continuously improve.
Skipping stages in technological development
For the time being, Volvo Cars is postponing its plans to produce what is known as a full-hybrid based on a diesel engine.
The strategy that Volvo is adopting to start series-producing plug-in cars as early as 2012 is to exploit already existing, tried and tested platform architecture for major components such as the body and engine. Instead of waiting for an entirely new generation of car models, the company is saving time by using innovative solutions to install the battery and electric motor beside a conventional driveline. In this way, the new technology will get out to car buyers that much sooner.
Plug-in hybrids the result of industrial cooperation
In January 2007, Volvo Cars and energy supplier Vattenfall launched a joint project with the aim of testing and developing plug-in technology. A new company was founded, V2 Plug-in-Hybrid Vehicle Partnership, as a result of this cross-border initiative.
The formation of the joint company with Vattenfall creates entirely new preconditions for developing next-generation green technology in a highly efficient way. Working in partnership is something that the company regards as an absolute necessity in the drive towards a sustainable future.