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Volvo to concentrate on hybrids and downsized engines for US

The XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Car Corporation will rely on a powertrain strategy based on its new downsized 4-cylinder VEA (Volvo Environmental Architecture) engine platform (earlier post) and hybrids for the US market, said John Maloney, recently appointed President of Volvo Cars, US, in an interview at the Detroit Auto Show.

The direction for the US was underscored by the unveiling of the XC60 gasoline-electric Plug-in Hybrid Concept at the show. (Earlier post.) The front wheels of the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept are powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine from the forthcoming VEA family which produces 280 hp (209 kW) and maximum torque of 380 N·m (280 lb-ft). Power delivery to the front wheels comes via a newly developed eight-speed automatic transmission.

The engine in the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept has no conventional starter motor or alternator. Instead, there is an Integrated Starter motor and Generator (ISG) connected to the crankshaft, which is located between the engine and the transmission. The ISG is capable of delivering an extra 34 kW (45 hp) during acceleration. It also charges the battery during braking.

The rear axle of the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept is driven by an electric motor producing 70 hp (52 kW) and 200 N·m (148 lb-ft). It is supplied with power from a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack installed under the floor of the load compartment.

Volvo will bring the gasoline plug-in technology to market in the US “in a couple of years”, according to Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation, although without saying which model will be the first to feature the system.

When he assumed the role of President, Maloney said that his priority was “to build upon the 2011 success and remain focused on delivering sustainable growth driven though our core volume products—the Volvo S60, XC60 and XC90.

The 2012 XC60 carries an EPA fuel economy rating of 20 mpg US (11.8 L/100km) combined (for the all-wheel drive models) using a 6-cylinder engine. By contrast, the XC60 concept plug-in would offer an estimated combined fuel economy rating in continuous driving in hybrid mode of 50 mpg US (4.7 L/100km) with better performance using a 4-cylinder engine combined with the plug-in electric-drive system, according to Volvo. The difference highlights the technology pathway Volvo will take in the US for achieving the national CAFE and greenhouse standards.

Because of the particular dynamics and infrastructure conditions of the US market, Maloney said, Volvo has no plans to bring diesel or flex-fuel vehicles into it, although the company has a strong portfolio of models with those alternative powertrains in Europe. In February 2011 at the Geneva Motor Show, Volvo introduced the diesel-electric V60 Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV), which is going on sale in Europe later this year. To make the plug-in technology viable for buyers in the US (and China), Volvo believes, it needs to feature a gasoline engine.

The US is Volvo Car Corporation’s biggest market; in 2011, it sold 67,273 units, there, up 25% from 53,952 units in 2010. Sales were mainly driven by the successful Volvo S60, XC60 and XC90 models; worldwide, the XC60 is Volvo’s highest selling model, accounting for 97,183 (21.6%) of the total 449,255 units sold in 2011.

Although Volvo is introducing the C30 electric, production and deployment will be limited, Maloney noted.

Volvo is looking at three means of delivering hybrids, noted Mats Fredrikson, Volvo Powerpack Director VEA in Sweden: batteries, flywheels and hydraulics. Earlier in 2011, Volvo announced it is working on a flywheel hybrid system (earlier post).



Is this too wise (mature) decision for the majority of us?


Given the rough efficiency parity between diesel and GDI engines, and the performance available with electric propulsion, Volvo seems to know what side its bread is buttered on. With the reduction of the economy advantage of diesel, US drivers will lean towards gasoline as long as it's cheaper. And electricity is the cheapest propulsion energy of all.

Henry Gibson

Now is the time for a new steam car.

Look up the Kitson-Still locomotive. ..HG..



E-P...thank you for the info. It is obvious that the world will go from Steam to Diesel-Electric to Pure Electric locomotives. Dual mode Diesel-Electric and Pure Electric locomotives are doing well on extended suburban routes where overhead power lines are not available all the way.


We can have ICE/Steam with a 6 cycle. Look it up, if you are going to ignite fuel, might as well get some work out of it in an ICE and if you are going to generate heat, might as well get some work out of that with steam.

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