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Volvo To Show Flex-Fuel Plug-In Hybrid Concept at Frankfurt

The Volvo ReCharge Concept plug-in hybrid.

Volvo Cars will introduce the Volvo ReCharge Concept, a plug-in series hybrid with a grid-rechargeable 12 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack and individual electric wheel motors, at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Based on the Volvo C30, the ReCharge supports a 100 km (62 mile) battery-powered range before the four-cylinder 1.6-liter flex-fuel engine kicks in to power the car and recharge the battery. When driving beyond the 100 km battery range, fuel consumption may vary from 0 to 5.5 liters per 100 km (43 mpg US at full liquid fuel consumption) depending on the distance driven using the engine.

The layout of the ReCharge. Click to enlarge.

For a 150 km (93 mile) drive starting with a full charge, the car will require less than 2.8 liters of fuel, giving the car an effective fuel economy of 1.9 l/100km (124 mpg US for that range).

The combustion engine starts up automatically when the battery pack reaches a 30% state of charge. The driver also has the option of controlling the four-cylinder Flexifuel engine manually via a button in the instrument panel. This allows the driver to start the engine earlier in order to maximize battery charge, for instance when out on the highway in order to save battery capacity for driving through the next town.

A certain proportion of electrical vehicles will be necessary to meet the CO2 emission demands of the future. Since the Volvo ReCharge Concept combines an excellent battery range with a backup combustion engine, it is a very interesting concept.

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 in intended markets comes from CO2-friendly sources such as biogas, hydropower and nuclear power.

—Magnus Jonsson, Senior Vice President Research and Development at Volvo Cars

The central electrical components in the Volvo ReCharge Concept demonstrator—the engine-powered generator and the wheel motors—were developed together with British electromagnetic specialists PML Flightlink. (Earlier post.)

With an individual electric motor at each wheel, weight distribution as well as mechanical efficiency and traction are maximized. 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. Power to each wheel is controlled individually. The ReCharge accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 9 seconds with a top speed of 160 km/h.

To help maximize the environmental benefits, the Volvo ReCharge Concept has high-efficiency tires developed by Michelin that are specially designed to accommodate the wheelmotors.

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.

A full recharge of the battery pack takes 3 hours. A one-hour quick charge should provide enough charge for a 50 km drive (31 miles), according to Volvo.

The ReCharge Concept was developed at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC), the Volvo Car Corporation’s think-tank in Camarillo, California.



In-wheel motors are the way to go. I really hope they can bring this to market. I would much rather buy a car from Volvo than GM.
Congrats to PML Flightlink for getting a great new customer.


The 62 mile battery only range is impressive. This car combined with the solar panels already on my roof would solve so many problems. EV's are so much fun.

As of today I have over 1400 miles on my electric motorcycle.

I would like to have a car like this for when the roads are full of snow and ice. The 4 wheel hub motors would make this a great winter car.


As being swedish I feel a bit proud and sense a hope for the future.
However I have a few questions:
-Can this car be driven or is it just a model?
-Which battery supplier, specs?
-Do they think they have a market for this vehicle in 2015? I mean that is 8 years from now...
That is too late, if Chevy can have production for customers in 2010 they gotta speed it up. By 2015 every carmaker will have specs like this.


"-Which battery supplier, specs?"

As Volvo chose the PML flightlink setup, it is likely they also used PML's battery pack from their mini, which was based on a stack of Kokam 70 Ah lithium-polymer cells.

That means they're using cobalt oxide based electrodes, which gives a nice 170 Wh/kg but also some danger of fire! The range wouldn't be a whole lot lower if they used safer 120 Wh/kg A123 cells.


Emissions may be even lower if most of the electricity in intended markets comes from CO2-friendly sources such as biogas, hydropower and nuclear power.

Uh, solar? Wind?


Go Volvo ! - Nice to see that more and more car-makers are seeing the plug-in hybrid light. I have a 60 mile commute so the 60 mi a charge will be perfect for me.
The question is can Volvo sell this car for less than 30K and can they get it to market in 2010?
If Chevy Volt beats them to market.. my money goes to Chevy.


I really like the news that are coming out at the moment. First the plug-in Fisker car and now plug-in Volvo.

Clett this battery issue was my first thought as well. You are probably right and if you are that would mean it would be a while before we see a plug-in Volvo at the auto dealer. You simply can’t roll out 100 of thousands of cars with an instable battery. Tesla can use the cobalt lithium battery because they will only sell a few thousands cars so the likelihood of accidents is smaller. Fisker uses E-one moli LiMn2O4 and that has been used successfully in power tools for a year longer than A123 batteries. The rough environment of power tools is a good indication that they may also stand the tough environment for car use. To my knowledge no one has used cobalt batteries for power tools.

Dennis Webb

The upcoming Chevrolet Volt sounds like a real competitor, but yesterday someone from GM began talking about the idea that they might have to LEASE the Volt's battery packs to buyers because folding the cost of the battery into the price of the car would make it too expensive for most people to afford. This doesn't sound like GM has solved one of the main obstacles to adoption of serial hybrids: the cost of a battery capable of supplying enough power to go, say, 50+ miles on a charge. I wonder what Volvo will have to price this ReCharge at. It probably won't be cheap.


What surprises me is the high fuel consumption for a series hybrid driving on fuel alone, especially with wheel motors. 5.5 liters/100 km (43 mpg) is too high. Il should be less than 3 liters/100 km (over 75 mpg). The Peugeot 308 Hybrid HDi is not a plug-in, neither a series hybrid and its consumption is 3.4 liters/100 km (68 mpg)!?


Too much range for current battery prices. I think Toyota's 8 mile range makes more sence. With Toyota's 8 miles you might get all your miles below 30 MPH from the grid a great step.


Viva la plug in hybrid. Great work. Now get it to market in half the estimated time. Please.


Volvo C30 as it stands now (227hp 5 cylinder turbo with under 30mpg highway) would never be under consideration for me as a new car purchase.

Volvo C30 with this configuration would now be a car I consider, even if the price were raised by $7000 to $30,000.

Rafael Seidl

So, that 150km is really 100km on grid electricity plus 50km on 2.8L of gasoline. So how does that stack up against a regular drivetrain?

1. First off, it is IMHO *completely* misleading of Volvo to claim fuel economy of 1.9L/100km. Grid electricity needs to be generated, which in the *real* world produces CO2 emissions and/or radioactive waste. It also costs money.

True, the end-user price per km driven is much lower on gird electricity than it is on gasoline or diesel. For reference:

One liter of gasoline contains approx. 8.75 kWh of chemical energy, of which perhaps ~20% (1.75 kWh) actually makes it to the wheels. Note that this is an average over the whole duty cycle, because LDV engines are rarely operated anywhere near their lowest SFC. In e.g. Germany, gasoline costs ~EUR 1.25/liter, so that works out to ~0.70 EUR/kWh where the rubber meets the road.

For diesel, the numbers are: ~9.9 kWh/liter, of which ~25% (2.48 kWh) makes it to the wheels thanks to the inherently better thermodynamics. Fuel cost is ~EUR 1.10/liter, ergo ~0.44 EUR/kWh at the tread.

By contrast, 4000kWh of conventionally generated electricity will cost ~EUR 750 in e.g. Berlin. For each kWh, only ~60% would make it to the wheels of an EV, so that works out to ~0.31 EUR/kWh at the tread.

The numbers will no doubt vary substantially, depending on how you actually drive, where you live and, how your contract with your utility is stuctured. In particular, operating PHEV will mean you purchase a lot more electricity and most of it at night. This should give you some leverage to bring down the unit price. Still, Germany has some of the highest prices for both fuel and electricity in the world, so you should redo the calculation using data relevant to your personal situation.

Of course, if people were to switch to PHEVs/EVs in droves to take advantage of the differential, Europe's finance ministers would surely cook up a new tax to plug the resulting revenue hole in their budgets.

2. Second, that 100km range on a single grid charge is suspiciously high, even if based on the notoriously optimistic NEDC. Either the battery pack is gargantuan and therefore unaffordable or, the claim is based on a full battery pack that is deep discharged. Needless to say, that would compromise battery life expectancy. If you actually operated your battery pack that way on a regular basis, you could face a very expensive repair bill after just a few years on the road. This will overcompensate for any additional savings you've made because of the high range on grid electrcity per recharge event.

Ergo, if you want to minimize total cost of ownership, i.e. maximize total distance driven on grid electricity on the *original* battery pack, you have to mollycoddle it by maintaining its SOC between say, 30% and 80% of nominal capacity at all times. In other words, you may be down to just 50km on grid electricity alone before you have to hook the vehicle back up.

Now, if you could really drive the first 50km each day on grid electricity alone in a car you could actually afford, that would still be enough to do the school run, commute to work and run some errands in many metropolitan areas. Gasoline becomes a luxury for the weekend and vacation trips.

Note, however, that a regular European household circuit is rated at 220V and 16amps and can deliver ~3.5kWh per hour. When running on gasoline, this Volvo uses 2.8L for 50km. Based on the above assumptions, that translates to ~5kWh at the tread. Using grid electricity, you would need to ingest ~8.3kWh at the outlet for the same driving performance. Therefore, a charge time of ~2.5h will be required. I reckon Volvo's claim of a 1h recharge for 50km on grid electricity would require an industrial three-phase drop rated at 400V @ ~22 amps.

Unlike Toyota, Volvo sensibly put the socket in the front bumper so car parks could position their outlets at the end of each stall. In northern Scandinavia, regular 220V outlets are sometimes provided by car park operators to power on-board block heaters in winter. These keep engines and interiors warm and diesel fuel liquid enough to start the vehicle back up again. It is possible that these facilities already provide a dedicated circuit per outlet, not becuase of the power draw but to prevent a malfunction in any given vehicle from affecting any other.


I might buy this, good work! Looks good at least, we'll see how it performs. I call for optional in-wheel motor colors!



How do you get 60% electrical efficiency? Li-ion charges at >99% efficiency. Discharges at about 93%. The motor on average should be in the low 90s. So that's about 85% efficiency.

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