At the latest 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Volvo Car Corporation unveiled an innovative gasoline plug-in hybrid, the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept. This Volvo is an electric car, a highly economical hybrid and a powerful high-performance car all rolled into one. Very progressive indeed, and full of common sense…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Ingenuous and practical - three cars in one
The driver decides simply at the touch of a button how all the power from the combination of the high-performance gasoline engine and the electric motor is to be used.
This gasoline plug-in hybrid technology, featuring a four-cylinder engine from the upcoming Volvo Environmental Architecture engine family, will reach American and European showrooms in a couple of years. It is at this stage still too early to say which model will be the first to feature this solution, but this concept car is interesting enough to warrant a report on our site.
As said, the car has three modes: in Pure mode, the car is powered solely by its electric motor as much as possible. The operational range is up to 35 miles (charge depleting range, U.S certification driving cycle) with zero tailpipe emissions in urban traffic. The range according to the European certification driving cycle NEDC is 45 km.
When you enlarge this photo, you can see clearly the indications for fuel, and battery charge status...
The Hybrid mode is the standard setting whenever the car is started. The gasoline engine and electric motor cooperate to provide maximum driving pleasure with minimum environmental impact. According to the European certification driving cycle NEDC, the CO2 emissions are a mere 53 g/km (2.3 l/100 km) - which translates into fuel economy of over 100 mpg. Using the U.S certification standards, which include emissions from the production of the electric energy, the combined fuel economy in continuous driving is 50 mpg. The car has a total operating range of up to 600 miles (960 km).
In Power mode, the technology is optimized to create maximum possible power. The gasoline engine with 280 hp and 380 Nm (280 lb.-ft.) is combined with the electric motor with 70 hp and 200 Nm (148 lb.-ft.). The electric motor's instant torque delivery contributes to the car's acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds (0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds).
The new Volvo “VEA” series engines: four cylinder power for the future…
The front wheels of the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept are powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine from the forthcoming VEA (Volvo Environmental Architecture) engine family. This engine produces not less than 280 horsepower and maximum torque of 380 Nm (280 lb.-ft.). Power delivery to the wheels comes via a newly developed eight-speed automatic transmission.
VEA is a modular range of diesel and gasoline engines. The gasoline versions come with direct injection, minimized internal losses and balance shafts for maximized comfort.
Several levels of turbocharging open up for flexibility that encompasses the whole range from high power and torque variants to extremely fuel-efficient derivatives. The modular format is based on a standard of 500cc (30 cubic inches) per cylinder for optimum thermodynamics. It could also be used to develop three-cylinder engines.
The driver is always informed about fuel and battery status...
Of course, the newly developed VEA offers several advantages, like the reduction of the number of unique parts. This leads to greater manufacturing efficiency, quality assurance and efficiency of new development projects.
The new powertrains are also considerably lighter than present engines with similar performance. The fuel economy is improved by up to 35 percent compared to engines with similar performance, and last but not least the modularity and compact transverse design are also ideal for future electrification developments.
The typical Volvo style is very well retained...
An integrated starter generator… and charging at home
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 horsepower. It is supplied with power from a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack installed under the floor of the load compartment.
The battery pack is recharged from a regular power outlet, at home or at a parking place. Recharging time varies with the current. If 220V is available a full charge with 12A takes just 3.5 hours. With 110V/12A a full charge takes 7.5 hours.
It is also possible while recharging the car to heat or cool the passenger compartment in order to make the start of the journey more comfortable. This also means that more battery power is available to propel the car.
Volvo styling tradition is also found back in the shape and controls of the central console...
Electric four-wheel drive…
The electric four-wheel drive in the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept is activated by pressing the AWD (All Wheel Drive) button. Instead of the mechanical power transfer of conventional four-wheel drive, the central control unit distributes power between the gasoline-driven front wheels and the electrically driven rear axle.
The electric four-wheel drive system has been designed to provide better traction when starting and when driving on slippery roads, for instance in snow or mud.
And saving battery power for later
The driver can choose to save battery power for later in order to drive on pure electricity later in, for example, an urban green zone or in the heart of a city. When “Save” is activated, the generator charges and tops up the battery pack if necessary. The aim is to ensure sufficient battery power for about 12 miles (20 km) of driving on electricity. Ingenuous indeed!
Hans Knol ten Bensel