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Volvo introducing new downsized 4-cylinder engine range, with fuel economy improvements up to 35%; hybrid and flywheel drive systems

The Volvo Car Corporation is introducing a new, downsized engine range consisting solely of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. The upcoming four-cylinder VEA (Volvo Environmental Architecture) engine range includes common rail diesels and direct injected gasoline engines. It covers the range from high-power and -torque variants to fuel-efficient derivatives.

The new VEA engines reduce the number of unique parts by 60%. The new powertrains are also up to 90 kg lighter than the present ones and fuel economy is improved by up to 35%.

It’s time to stop counting cylinders. At the Frankfurt Motor Show we will reveal a new concept car. It proves that downsized engines can go hand in hand with our customers’ expectations on luxury and driving pleasure.

Our four-cylinder focus is the perfect way for us to quickly reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. We will develop four-cylinder engines with higher performance than today’s six-cylinder units and lower fuel consumption than the current four-cylinder generation.

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

Modularity and compact transverse design are also ideal for future electrification developments. To cover all customer requirements, certain engines will gain added performance via hybrid or other spearhead technology, such as flywheel drive. (Earlier post.)

Later this autumn, the Volvo Car Corporation will become one of the first car makers in the world to test the potential of flywheel drive on public roads. The KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) captures braking energy in a flywheel that spins at up to 60,000 revs a minute. Once released, this stored energy can either accelerate the car or propel the vehicle once it reaches cruising speed.

The flywheel system offers the driver an additional 80 horsepower while reducing fuel consumption by up to 20%, according to Mertens.

Scalable Platform Architecture. The Volvo Car Corporation will promote economies of scale within the company’s own model range via a new vehicle architecture: SPA (Scalable Platform Architecture). SPA allows most Volvo models to be built on the same production line irrespective of vehicle size and complexity.

In addition to the industrial benefits of common vehicle architecture there are also significant product-related advantages; upcoming SPA models will be 100-150 kg lighter than current models of the same size.

The new architecture also enables electrification at all levels, and new chassis technologies combined with the lower weight and improved weight distribution will boost driving dynamics. The electrical architecture is the backbone of the company’s drive to reinforce its leading position in active safety.



It is amazing what those car manufacturers had in the back drawer. Competition from hybrids and electric vehicles is forcing them to have a look at what was in there.


Competition? Volvo also offers hybrids and electric cars. The competition is most likely ICEs from other manufacturers. Whatever route chosen, downsizing is a key issue. Those who do not downsize will be left behind. Perhaps there will be competition between flywheel KERS and electric hybrids. I am looking forward to the Frankfurt show…


Once you have the marketing problems of 4 cylinder engines (in upmarket vehicles) solved, there are only technical problems to be addressed.

You have at least 3 ways of hybridising - electric, hydraulic and flywheel.

You can go battery or supercap or a combination of both.

You can have varying amounts of electric energy (KwH) available for a transition from HEV to pHev.

You can make the ICE flex, diesel or gasoline (lots of ethanol in Sweden).

So lots of options for Volvo to improve their cars.

Just got to plot a clear path through the forest.


Yes, the marketing problems for 4-cylinder engines in upmarket cars should not be neglected. It could definitely be a “show-stopper”. However, I have some faith that it could be overcome if 4-cylinder engines prove to be successful in premium cars such as, e.g. Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Volvo says that: “It’s time to stop counting cylinders”. I agree but you never know how customers respond. Presumably, hybridization could be one way to add some spice to the stew. In some way, the customer must get the feeling that he/she is getting some additional value for money rather than low fuel consumption alone.

Let me remind you that Volvo recently did something totally against the strategy they speak about here. They have a 5-cylinder 2.4-liter diesel engine. Rather than making a 4-cylinder engine from this one, they reduced the stroke to make a 2-liter 5-cylinder version as an option. They could achieve similar power and torque as the old larger engine (the new large engine became more powerful) and this downsizing reduced fuel consumption somewhat but a 4-cylinder would, of course, have been better in this respect.

Thomas Pedersen


At a Peak Oil seminar in Wash. D.C. in 2005, I heard the director of the MIT engine labs say just that! He said there were at least a dozen fuel saving techniques already gone through idea, analysis and most of the development stages, requiring only maturing and production development for implementation. He also said that many of these would have compounding benefits, such as cylinder deactivation and start/stop, although he did not go into specifics.

However, most of those techniques were too costly for 2 $/gal. gas. Even at 4 $/gal. customers are scratching their heads about how much more money to spend up front to save on fuel.

This guy (Sloan something, I think) said that he did not believe too much in hybrids, because the cost of hybridization would be higher than those other (EfficientDynamics) techniques, but with little better fuel savings.

I think the guy has got a point. There was also some representative of the German car industry who said, a couple of years ago, that you get more bang for the buck by distributing the batteries for hybridization on as many cars as possible, i.e. micro-hybrids > HEV > PHEV > BEV. The reason being that the Li-Ion raw material and cost for one BEV could be used for 100 micro-hybrids with much greater total fuel savings. That makes a lot of sense to me in a world where ICE cars make up 99% of the market!

However, I think there is a minimum battery/E-motor size that makes sense. The motor should be strong enough to allow significant downsizing of the ICE, and the bat/e-motor should be strong enough to regenerate significant portions of breaking in ordinary traffic. Otherwise a dual system is not worth the effort. I also prefer at > 5 miles range and > 60 km/t with the e-motor, to reduce ICE usage in urban centres. Well, just my two cents...


@Thomas Pedersen
I fully agree!

Utilization of rare raw materials is best in vehicles that have small battery sizes. In an extreme comparison, it is better with many micro-HEVs than a few BEVs; at least if we want to make maximum use of these resources and presumably also with regard to overall efficiency. Without doubt, economical constraints also favor micro-HEVs over all the other options, i.e. that is after we have done all we possibly can to improve the ICE itself. Is this a bleak view for BEV fanatics? Well, definitely so in the near future. If there is some great breakthrough in battery technology in the future, I might change my mind…



Theres something to be said for the under 2-liter 5 cylinder. When you compare the torque, NVH, power-to-weight, eliminating balance shafts and chains, using timing chains, making a more robust, longer-lasting, reliable engine...but what manufacturer wants engines that easily go 300Kmiles? Thats a lot of folks NO longer with jobs.


I do not have a clue about what you are referring to.


To think that every automaker would NOT make HIS engines as durable as he can economically afford to shows a complete lack of business sense.

Did Yugo achieved world wide success by putting the buyer back in the showroom in 2 years?

It was someone else's showroom !

How simple is that.

Calvin Brock

Hmm… I read blogs on a similar topic, but i never visited your blog. I added it to favorites and i’ll be your constant reader.Here

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