Technology has always been at the core of the automobile, and as tehcnology steps forward, so too does the automotive powetrain--from the realm of pure combustion to electrical power. Today, Volvo announced another step down that road with its intent to have a production diesel-electric plug-in hybrid on the road by 2012.
Unlike some other plug-in hybrids, like the Chevrolet Volt or Fisker Karma, which rely solely on electric power to move the vehicle whether that electricity is stored in the battery pack via a charger at home or generated on board from a small engine, the Volvo plug-in hybrid uses a more conventional parallel hybrid layout. That means the Volvo plug-in can rely solely on diesel power if necessary, sending the engine's power directly to the wheels rather than through an intermediary battery pack.
Volvo's planned plug-in hybrid would use this layout to reach a range of about 745 miles through a combination of 30 miles of electric-only driving on the home-charged lithium-ion battery pack and another 715 miles of extended-range driving thanks to an on-board highly efficient small-displacement diesel engine.
That will work out to about 49 grams of CO2 per kilometer according to Volvo, which is under half the emissions of a typical Toyota Prius.But as always when talking about plug-in hybrids, take that figure with a grain of salt, as emissions will depend heavily on how the vehicle is used. For example, driving less than 30 miles per day would allow an owner to never get out of EV-only mode. On the other hand, routinely driving at high speeds for distances over 100 miles per day would skew outputs back to a more typical figure.
Nevertheless, plug-in hybrids offer the potential for very low CO2 emissions indeed, and that's Volvo's main reason for focusing on the technology. "We are focusing strongly on plug-in hybrids in order to meet the demands for low CO2 emissions and to provide sustainable road transportation. We naturally expect that the relevant authorities will offer subsidies to boost developments, speeding up the creation of a market for this type of car," says CEO Stephen Odell.
So what will this new plug-in hybrid look like? According to Volvo, it may be quite familiar. Rather than building a new vehicle from the ground up, Volvo wants to short-circuit the development process by using an existing body and engine to build the car. The first vehicles to exhibit this new plug-in hybrid powertrain will be the larger, more expensive sedans like the S60 and S80, as well as Volvo's wagons, crossovers and SUVs. The V70 demonstration plug-in hybrid vehicle shown here previews the technology.
Volvo made a similar announcement of intent to build a diesel hybrid last October, but today's confirmation of that intent shows that Volvo hasn't abandoned its plans despite the tumble taken by the car market this year.
To learn more about Volvo's plug-in hybrid plans, watch the official video below.