Volvo's future with Ford Motor Company may not be certain, but that hasn't stopped the Swedish automaker from planning ahead. Although Volvo vehicles are currently recognized as some of the safest on the road, they could soon become some of the cleanest and most fuel efficient thanks to a partnership with the Swedish energy company, Vattenfall. The fruits that partnership are expected to pay off in 2012 with the introduction of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) for Volvo. Since 2007, Volvo has come out with a number of concept vehicles using green technology including PHEVs like the 2007 Volvo ReCharge Concept vehicle. Volvo President and CEO Stephen Odell said that his company 'will be one of the first premium car companies to have a plug-in hybrid.'
In this joint venture, Volvo will supply the vehicles and Vattenfall will test the infrastructure and design quick charge technology. Helping to set its fleet of green cars apart from the rest, Volvo will also use its DRIVe diesel engine technology to further reduce the environmental footprint of its vehicles. This summer, Volvo will produce three PHEV models with diesel engines for testing purposes with the hopes of having the technology fine tuned and ready for production by 2012. The hybrid-electric system being developed by Volvo will be a parallel system meaning that at any time the diesel engine or the electric motor can be working independently or cooperatively to propel the vehicle.
The first vehicle expected to be tested is a PHEV version of the Volvo V70 wagon. The Volvo V70 PHEV will house an 11.3 kWh lithium ion battery pack in the rear cargo area which will power the vehicle's rear wheels solely under electric power for 30 miles; after that, the diesel engine will take over to power the front wheels. The system can accept a charge from a conventional home outlet using a plug located on the left front fender, or it can use a quick charger using a plug located on the left rear quarter panel. An electric drive display will integrate into the instrument panel and will give the driver pertinent information such as energy consumption, estimated charge time, electric power available and whether the diesel engine or the electric motor is driving the car. Using a standard wall outlet, the system can be fully charged in about five hours, but no word yet on how long a quick charger would take. Regenerative braking also will help charge the batteries during braking.
Other than the V70 PHEV, Volvo's 2007 ReCharge Concept is another promising application of advanced fuel-saving technology. Unlike the parallel hybrid system scheduled to be used in the V70, the C30-based ReCharge is a series hybrid that operates similar to the Chevrolet Volt. In theory, the Volvo ReCharge can travel more than 60 miles on just electric power before requiring the 1.6-liter flex-fuel inline-4 to kick in to charge the battery pack. Power to all four wheels would come directly from the electric motors regardless of whether or not the engine is running.
Volvo hasn't even speculated on a target price point for such vehicles yet but was quick to point out that although it will cost more than a conventional vehicle, the PHEV technology (whether it be series or parallel) will save drivers substantially at the fuel pump.