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Volvo Car outlines technological future: new Scalable Platform Architecture and focus on four-cylinder engines; Concept You

The new Concept You show car is an example of coming designs based on the SPA. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Car Corporation is building its technological future is based on two in-house developed strategies: a scalable vehicle architecture which in principle means that most Volvo models can be built on the same production line irrespective of vehicle size and complexity; and a new engine range consisting solely of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. (Earlier post.)

The innovation program also includes a new 8-speed automatic transmission and, later in 2011, testing of a new Flywheel KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) will start on public roads (earlier post).

Scalable Platform Architecture. Volvo is seeking to promote economies of scale within the company’s own model range via a separate architecture for most of its products. Within the new joint SPA (Scalable Platform Architecture) there are several platforms that share the same basic chassis structure, seat frame, electrical system and driveline. These platforms are the basis for different vehicle clusters—i.e., a number of complete car models. In today’s model range, for example, the Volvo S60, V60 and XC60 form one cluster.

SPA is intended to enable developing a model range consisting of cars based on the same joint modules and interfaces, scalable systems and components, and built in a flexible production system.

SPA gives us a fresh technological start. When the first SPA model is launched in a few years’ time, about 90 percent of its components will be new and unique. What is more, we’re raising the bar when it comes to quality and technology level in every area. We will be fully on a par with the very toughest competitors.

—Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development at the Volvo Car Corporation

In addition to the industrial benefits of common vehicle architecture there are also significant product related advantages such as weight; electrification; driving dynamics; design proportions; and weight reduction of 100-150 kg (220 to 331 lbs).

SPA will combine what Volvo says will be the highest degree of high strength steel qualities in the industry to date with the extensive use of aluminum in the front structure, doors, chassis and power train.

The new architecture enables electrification on all levels, from start/stop technology to pure electric drive, without intruding on interior space and load space. The electrical architecture will enable all future multimedia and connectivity solutions, and forms the backbone of the Volvo Car Corporation’s drive to reinforce its leading position in active safety.

Overall packaging efficiency has also been improved to support more attractive design proportions, while at the same time enabling significant improvements in aerodynamic drag. Design limitations as regards wheelbase, overhang, vehicle height and the height of the front are changed. This creates greater freedom to give forthcoming Volvo models more exciting lines, the company says.

The proportions can give entirely different appearances even though the components used are exactly the same. The comparison between a donkey and a thoroughbred racehorse is an excellent example: each has a head, a body and four legs. But they are perceived entirely differently because of the proportions of their individual body parts and between their body parts. For us the new architecture means we can sharpen our design language still further, carving out just the right athletic and dynamic aura that is so important to the most demanding prestige car buyers. Concept You is an excellent example of this. It shows what can be achieved with the new architecture.

—Peter Horbury, Vice President Design at the Volvo Car Corporation

Volvo Environmental Architecture. The new engine range, known as VEA (Volvo Environmental Architecture), consists solely of four-cylinder engines which in certain configurations will benefit from enhanced performance through electrification or other spearhead technology.

The modular format is based on a standard of 500cc per combustion chamber for optimum thermodynamics. It could also be used to develop three-cylinder engines. VEA offers several advantages, Volvo says:

  • The number of unique parts is reduced by 60%. This promotes manufacturing efficiency, quality assurance and efficiency of new development projects.

  • The new powertrains are up to 90 kg lighter than the present ones.

  • Fuel economy is improved by up to 35%.

  • Modularity and compact transverse design are also ideal for future electrification developments.

  • The engines will meet all known emissions legislation worldwide up to 2017.

At present engine installation varies with each car model. With this holistic solution tomorrow's technology development can focus entirely on engine performance instead of diverting attention to installation modifications. What is more, assembly in the factory will be easier. The development costs are initially high but after that they drop sharply.

—Peter Mertens

With VEA, the Volvo Car Corporation also introduces a new 8-speed automatic gearbox.

Road tests of flywheel technology. Later this autumn, the Volvo Car Corporation will become one of the first carmakers in the world to test the potential of flywheel drive on public roads.

Flywheel drive, also known as Flywheel KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), is fitted to the car’s rear axle, while the engine drives the front wheels. When the brakes are applied, the resulting braking energy causes the flywheel to spin at up to 60,000 revs a minute. Once the car starts moving again, the flywheel’s rotation is transferred to the rear wheels via a specially designed transmission unit. With this arrangement the total power of the engine and KERS is applied to all four wheels.

The energy stored in the flywheel can then accelerate the car or be used to propel the vehicle once it reaches its cruising speed.

This system offers the driver an additional 80 horsepower, giving a four-cylinder engine the acceleration of a six. What’s more, it has potential for reducing fuel consumption by up to 20 percent. Flywheel technology would be a suitable solution for our large cars such as the Concept You sedan.

—Peter Mertens

Concept You. The Concept You luxury sedan concept unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show gives a good indication of the company’s next large sedan, said Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO of the Volvo Car Corporation.

Concept You is the successor to the Concept Universe, which was presented at Auto Shanghai before the summer. Both concept cars are being used to obtain input from the global car buying public.

The Concept You reveals how the new Scalable Platform Architecture opens up dynamic design possibilities on top of the technological and industrial advantages, the company said.



Interesting to see if KERS will perform as claimed. Will the 35% and 20% claimed fuel economy be cumulative?


Definitely not additive! Multiplicative? Perhaps “almost” but it depends on the basis for both improvements have been defined. Much of the 35% reduction most likely targets low-load operation of the engine but also cover improvements on the car body and other areas. Likewise, the kinetic energy recovery alone could not explain a 20% gain and the basis for comparison here might be a heavier car than the new car body. Consequently, there must be an “overlap” of where both measures apply. If we anticipate a 15% gain with KERS on the new engine/car, we would still get a 45% improvement (0.85*0.65=0.55). If true, it sounds as a very large improvement to me. However, there might also be an area for improvement that we have not considered here, i.e. further engine downsizing with KERS. If the engine could be downsized (or reduction of number of cylinders from 4 to 3) to compensate for the extra 80 hp KERS power, we would have an additional gain.

Nick Lyons

Seems as though the flywheel could be revved up while cruising, not just while braking. That way you could have extra power-on-demand for overtaking. I suppose you could optionally press a button to 'wind up' the flywheel in anticipation of need--or the controls could offer 'power mode' or some such thing.


Sure! That is one of the reasons why you could downsize further. However, for marketing reasons you might need the better acceleration instead.

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