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Volvo: We're Going Four-Cylinder, 24/7


2011 Volvo XC60

2011 Volvo XC60

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Volvo has traditionally been known as the car company with boxy-but-safe sedans and wagons. If things go as Volvo management plans, they may soon be known as the “safe” green car manufacturer, since the company is taking major steps towards a zero emissions future.

First up is a switch to four-cylinder diesel and gasoline engines throughout their lineup. Volvo killed off the V-8 in 2010, but emphasized the use of five- and six-cylinder engines at a time when other automakers were paring back to four-cylinders. Volvo’s new Volvo Environmental Architecture (VEA) strategy is to use four-cylinder common rail diesel and gasoline direct injection engines throughout their product line, a move that Volvo insists will continue to meet customer expectations of the brand.

In fact, Volvo is claiming that the move to a more modern four-cylinder engine will, in some cases, increase both performance and fuel economy. The new engines will share as many common parts as possible, a move that Volvo expects to reduce engine-part inventory by as much as 60 percent. The new drivetrains will be lighter, too, in some cases up to 198 pounds lighter than current six-cylinder drivetrains. Fuel economy will grow by as much as 35 percent.

The common-parts idea will be carried over to Volvo’s platforms as well, thanks to something Volvo is calling Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA). By using a single, modular platform to build everything from the C30 hatchback up to the S80 sedan, a single production line can be used to build every vehicle in Volvo’s lineup. The SPA architecture will allow future vehicles to be as much as 330 pounds lighter than their current equivalents, with improved weight distribution and the possibility of introducing electrification into the Volvo drivetrain.

Expect to see both flywheel drive (similar to the Kinetic Energy Recovery System technology used by F1 teams) and more conventional hybrid or electric designs from Volvo in the coming years.

To highlight the new direction Volvo is taking, the company will launch a new concept based on the SPA architecture at next week’s Frankfurt Auto Show. We’ll bring you more details as part of our complete Frankfurt coverage.

 
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