Volvo Car's environmental vision: "DRIVe Towards Zero"
"DRIVe Towards Zero" is Volvo Cars' vision for developing cars entirely free from harmful exhaust emissions and environment-impacting carbon dioxide.
New steps are being continuously taken to reach that vision. For instance, in 2009 Volvo introduced seven high-efficiency diesel models with very low CO2 emissions. And the company's ambitious electrification strategy promises that plug-in hybrids will be on the market as early as 2012.
At a time when pressure on the automobile industry is perhaps greater than ever before, there is a sparkling combination of creativity and ambition that is helping the drive towards increasingly efficient cars and the essential phasing-out of fossil fuels. Not least at Volvo. The company continues to prioritise its focus on advanced green technology.
Between the years 2006 and 2014 Volvo will be investing a massive SEK 15 billion in research and development with the aim of reducing the fuel consumption and environmental emissions of its cars.
"We already have a wide range of models with extremely competitive CO2 emissions. It is our aim that by 2020, the average emissions from our models will be 90-100g CO2 per kilometre and that we should lead the market in the environmental field. Electrification is an important part of the paradigm shift to significantly reduce CO2 emissions," says Paul Gustavsson, Director of Electrification Strategy at Volvo Cars.
Volvo's environmental dedication dates back to the 1970s and encompasses the car's entire lifecycle, from design, construction and production to use, servicing and recycling.
The main focus is on efficient energy and resource utilisation, reduced emissions and non-allergenic car interiors.
2008 saw the introduction of the DRIVe badge, a collective symbol for Volvo Cars' dedication to greener motoring. The new symbol reflects the company's commitment to sustainable mobility and zero emissions, at the same time as it includes a promise of constant improvement.
"Here at Volvo, we do not feel that there is any single obvious route to sustainable mobility. For one thing, local preconditions vary considerably as regards biofuels and the necessary infrastructure. And for another, we are seeing a steady stream of exciting new technological advances in such fields as electrification, which change these preconditions," says Magnus Jonsson, Senior Vice President, Research & Development at Volvo Cars.
"We therefore maintain an open and proactive approach to various development tracks and technologies - so that we can quickly and cost-effectively commercialise products with the minimum possible climate impact," clarifies Magnus Jonsson.
Product development within three areas
Volvo follows three main tracks for reducing the environmental impact of its products: efficiency enhancement, renewable fuels and electrification. These three tracks will coexist and vary in significance over the coming decades, with the aim of gradually reducing fuel consumption and emissions to the levels required by the authorities, the customers and the environment.
The emphasis in the short term is to improve the efficiency of existing technology that can be used in several models and for both diesel- and petrol-powered cars. This will be paralleled by a switch to increased use of renewable fuels as these become more widely available.
While continuing to improve the efficiency of combustion engines, Volvo is planning to introduce plug-in hybrids running on electricity in combination with economical combustion engines powered for instance by second-generation biofuels such as synthetic diesel. The next stage after that is cars powered solely by electricity for certain customer segments, potentially offering virtually zero CO2 emissions.
Volvo's DRIVe cars consist of a series of extremely fuel-efficient diesel models that had their world premiere at the Paris international car show in early October 2008. The Volvo C30, S40 and V50 were unveiled with particularly economical engines.
By the time the Geneva motor show threw open its doors in March 2009, the technology had been refined still further and, what is more, been adopted by the company's larger models. All are thus best in their respective segments with regard to fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.
Volvo Cars feels that the most effective way to cut the product range's total carbon dioxide emissions in the short term is to reduce the fuel consumption of its diesel and petrol engines. This is because cutting the emissions of many cars sold in large volumes will have a bigger total effect and bring favourable results more quickly than making huge cuts in a small number of cars. Really economical diesel engines featuring start/stop technology will be introduced across the entire product range in the coming years.
Volvo's focus and its efforts are ably illustrated by the low CO2 emissions and fuel consumption figures of the company's green DRIVe cars:
3.8 l/100 km
99 g CO2/km
3.9 l/100 km
104 g CO2/km
3.9 l/100 km
104 g CO2/km
4.9 l/100 km
129 g CO2/km
4.9 l/100 km
129 g CO2/km
6.0 l/100 km
159 g CO2/km
6.0 l/100 km
159 g CO2/km
The switch to increased use of renewable fuels includes car models that are tailored to run on multiple fuels. Volvo offers models that are powered by petrol, diesel, ethanol and natural gas/biogas. Volvo's Flexifuel models, that is to say cars that can run on both petrol and bioethanol, today constitute one of the widest such ranges on the market.
What is more, on several European markets there are aftermarket-converted gas models that can run on up to five fuels - natural gas, biogas, hythane (biomethane with low-blend hydrogen), E85 and petrol. Biogas in particular offers excellent environmental properties. Within the next few years, second-generation biofuels such as synthetic diesel will also be able to be used in Volvo's cars.
Hybrids and electric cars
In the somewhat longer time perspective, the biggest potential for achieving significant reductions in environmental impact is with electric cars. In early 2009, Volvo Cars introduced microhybrid technology, a start/stop function that switches off the combustion engine whenever the car comes to a standstill.
In 2012, customers will be able to buy Volvo plug-in electrical hybrids, that is to say cars that can be recharged via a regular household electric socket. These cars have both a conventional combustion engine and an electric motor powered by a battery pack. They are propelled primarily by energy from the battery, with the combustion engine taking over when the distance travelled exceeds the capacity of the battery.
For shorter distances in and around cities, it is likely that dedicated battery-powered cars may be in demand. Volvo is therefore conducting research in this area too. There are still many challenges to face with dedicated battery-powered cars in terms of range, cost and safety. In 2010, Volvo will be carrying out comprehensive field tests with Volvo C30s equipped for dedicated battery power. At the end of the field tests, the results will be evaluated and a decision will be taken on possible market introduction.
Non-allergenic car interiors
Offering an allergy-free environment inside the car is also part of the DRIVe approach and this is an area that has high priority at Volvo. The results of the company's long-term work include the following achievements:
Reduced lifecycle impact
Over the past forty years, Volvo has considerably reduced the environmental effects of its car manufacturing operations. One example is emissions of solvents - a high-priority area for the entire automobile industry. Furthermore, today the company only uses climate-neutral electricity at its production plants in Sweden and Belgium.
At present, 85 percent of the materials used in Volvo's cars can be recycled and 95 percent can be recovered. What is more, the Volvo XC60 is RRR-certified (that is, suitable for Reuse, Recycling and Recovery) to 95 percent. This is Volvo's first car to be type-approved with regard to recycling. In order to qualify for this approval, the car manufacturer must show how the car is recycled at the end of its lifetime.
Volvo's green-car range comprises no less than 14 models
The wide range of green cars consists of extremely economical diesel models (D), Flexifuel models running on bioethanol (F and FT), and Flexifuel models retro-converted for gas power (Bi-Fuel).