2007 Volvo ReCharge Concept

September 11, 2007

Fredrik Arp, president and CEO of Volvo Cars, emphasized environmental and safety initiatives in its Frankfurt auto show press conference, highlighted by the company's recently revealed ReCharge plug-in hybrid, which was shown at the center of the Swedish automaker's stand for the first time in public, power cord very visibly plugged into a nearby floor outlet.

Based on the recently introduced C30 hatchback, the ReCharge is a so-called series hybrid — like the Chevrolet Volt introduced at this year’s Detroit auto show — in which there is no physical connection between the engine and the wheels. Power is actually delivered via four separate electric motors — one at each wheel — that can adjust delivery to aid traction, and the car runs on special Michelin high-efficiency tires. Regenerative braking at each wheel would help increase efficiency further in real-world stop-and-go driving.

A lithium-polymer battery pack is located in the luggage compartment area; Volvo claims that the power pack is intended to have a useful life beyond that of the car itself, though automakers are currently in a contentious position of assuming — in the midst of massive R&D investment — that these advanced battery packs will be ready for mass production sooner rather than later.


In this case, battery configuration and design for the functioning concept was provided primarily by Sanyo, however company officials working on the project said that several other smaller, California-based tech companies are helping with battery-pack development that may someday allow the vehicle to be produced.


When fully recharged, which takes about three hours, the battery system will provide a range of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) of driving, according to Volvo. That’s well beyond the average U.S. commute of nearly 35 miles, and within range for some to make the round trip on electricity alone. A quick one-hour charge alone yields enough juice to go more than 30 miles.


When the batteries are discharged to 30 percent, a 1.6-liter four-cylinder Flexifuel engine cycles on and off as needed and essentially functions as a generator for the system, allowing long-distance driving. But drivers can also activate the flex-fuel engine via an in-dash button, to ‘top off’ the battery when desired. When functioning beyond the battery’s original charge, on the gasoline engine only, fuel economy is about 43 miles per gallon, though Volvo says that for a 93-mile starting at full charge, the effective fuel economy is 124 mpg.


Performance is respectable albeit far from jaw-dropping; acceleration to 62 mph takes nine seconds, and its top speed is 99 mph. Overall, the ReCharge is expected to have 80-percent lower operating costs than a typical internal combustion vehicle, so the savings in your wallet and sharing the eco-love could offset some of want for something racier.


The Swedish automaker anticipates the ReCharge’s CO2 emissions to be about 66 percent lower when compared with today’s best hybrids; and if more public utilities convert to CO2-friendly sources like hydropower or nuclear, that could be further reduced.


“We are focusing on the greatest challenge the global society has today — climate change,” said Arp, who preached the importance of incremental improvements in vehicle efficiency for reducing CO2, by methods such as leaner-running engines, lower-friction oils, improved aerodynamics, lower rolling resistance, and optimized power steering systems. Arp said that altogether, automakers are capable of achieving another 20-percent improvement in upcoming years by employing all such methods.


While production is still a long shot, the ReCharge serves as a showcase for the hybrid development that's currently going on within Volvo. It was designed in California, at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Camarillo, California, in cooperation with Volvo's hybrid development center in Göteborg, Sweden . The $1.1 billion center was announced in spring 2006 and opened last fall, and is serving to lead Ford Motor Company hybrid development in Europe. An official said that the center, with 40 to 60 employees, has been working together with engineers in Dearborn on a hybrid system that will be used by at least one other FoMoCo brand; details are still under lock and key, but further announcements can be expected soon.



Related Articles


2007 Frankfurt Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (9/4/2007)


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