Automotive

Volvo testing concepts to extend range of electric vehicles by up to 1,000 km

Volvo C30 Electric
Volvo C30 Electric
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Volvo V60 with parallel-connected Range Extender
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Volvo V60 with parallel-connected Range Extender
Volvo C30 with parallel-connected Range Extender
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Volvo C30 with parallel-connected Range Extender
Volvo C30 with series-connected Range Extender
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Volvo C30 with series-connected Range Extender
Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid
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Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid
Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid
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Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid
Volvo C30 Electric
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Volvo C30 Electric
Volvo C30 Electric
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Volvo C30 Electric
Volvo C30 Electric
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Volvo C30 Electric
Volvo C30 with series-connected Range Extender
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Volvo C30 with series-connected Range Extender

While there have been huge strides made in battery technology in recent times, the limited range of electric vehicles remains one of the main barriers to their general adoption. While maybe not an ideal solution, Volvo is producing a few electric test vehicles with range extenders - combustion engines that increase the effective range of the electric vehicle by effectively turning it into a hybrid. The project, which is supported by he Swedish Energy Agency and the EU, will test three different electric motor/combustion engine combinations.

The three different technology combinations will all involve the installation of a three-cylinder combustion engine that can run on both petrol and ethanol (E85) and will complement the electric motor, which drives the front wheels. Two of the configurations being tested are based on the Volvo C30 Electric, while the third is based on the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid. Volvo says all three concepts increase the vehicles' range by up to 1,000 km (621 miles).

Volvo C30 with series-connected Range Extender

Volvo C30 with series-connected Range Extender
Volvo C30 with series-connected Range Extender

The first concept sees a three-cylinder 60 hp (45 kW) combustion engine installed under the rear load compartment floor of the C30 Electric. The combustion engine is connected to a 40 kW generator with the power generated primarily used to drive the car's 111 hp (82 kW) electric motor. However, the driver can also choose to let the generator charge the battery pack, which has been reduced in size to make room for the combustion engine and its 40-liter fuel tank. The vehicle's battery pack alone provides a range of 110 km (68 miles).

Volvo C30 with parallel-connected Range Extender

Volvo C30 with parallel-connected Range Extender
Volvo C30 with parallel-connected Range Extender

The second concept fits the C30 Electric with a more powerful turbocharged 190 hp (142 kW) three-cylinder combustion engine at the rear. Unlike the first concept, the engine is connected in parallel to primarily drive the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission when cruising on the highway. The engine can also be used to charge the battery via a 40 kW generator. The electric motor is the same 111 hp (82 kW) unit found in the first concept, which combines with the combustion engine to provide a total of more than 300 hp (224 kW), giving it the ability to accelerate from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in under six seconds. The electric-powered range of the vehicle is 75 km (47 miles).

Volvo V60 with parallel-connected Range Extender

Volvo V60 with parallel-connected Range Extender
Volvo V60 with parallel-connected Range Extender

The third concept sees the entire drive package installed under the front bonnet. A 111 hp (80 kW) electric motor is supplemented with a three-cylinder petrol turbo engine producing 190 hp (140 kW), a two-stage automatic transmission and a 40 kW generator. Power from the combustion engine drives the front wheels via the gearbox and recharges the battery pack when required. Up to 50 km/h (31 mph), the vehicle is powered solely by electricity with the combustion engine kicking in at higher speeds. The combustion engine will also charge the battery pack when the charge level drops below a predetermined level. The battery pack located under the rear load floor provides a range of 50 km (31 miles), while the fuel tank is slightly larger than the other concepts at 45 liters.

"This is an exciting expansion of our increasing focus on electrification. Battery cost and size mean that all-electric cars still have a relatively limited operating range. With the Range Extender, the electric car has its effective range increased by a thousand kilometers - yet with carbon dioxide emissions below or way below 50 g/km," says Derek Crabb, Vice President Powertrain Engineering at the Volvo Car Corporation.

"These three projects allow us to evaluate the Range Extender's various possibilities. As with the C30 Electric and V60 Plug-in Hybrid, the goal is to make the cars exceptionally CO2-lean without compromising on customer requirements such as comfort, driving pleasure and practicality," added Crabb.

Volvo is due to begin testing of the various concepts in the first quarter of 2012.

17 comments
William H Lanteigne
I submitted the \"hybrid replacement transmission\" idea on whynot.net in 2005: Most car manufacturers use interchangeable transmissions in different models, and often different manufacturers use the same transmission in their respective products. My idea is for a replacement transmission that bolts up to an existing vehicle. This would contain an electric motor, a generator, and a torque converter coupled to a direct drive (no lower gears, the electric motor would start the car from standing. The electric motor would propel the car up to about 25 mph, the ICE would begin charging the battery pack as the car began moving, and would take over driving duties over 25 mph). I\'m pretty sure this is possible using off-the-shelf technology, if not off-the-shelf parts, the problem would be offering it at a price competitive with conventional replacement transmissions. In practice, when the origninal transmission goes out, I would take my existing car to a transmission shop and ask for the \"Hybrid conversion\" transmission. The transmission would be installed for the same price as a conventional transmission swap, plus the added cost of control boxes and a dozen or so off-the-shelf deep-cycle marine-type batteries. There is ample room for a battery pack in a car such as my 1983 Ford Crown Vic, under the seats and in the trunk.
VoiceofReason
True diesel electric submarines have been around for almost 100 years now at this point. I really don\'t see why so many companies can\'t see the logic. You have the ICE run a generator only. The electric system drives the car regardless of whether the ICE is on or not. The engine is there to extend range and recharge the batteries. Duh.
myale
Is there a reason they have gone petrol and ethanol rather than diesel - know there was some solidifcation issues of biofules replacing diesel so assume this it the reason they have gone petrol maybe? Would of been interesting to also see some more radical concepts such as an engine that also scale its power up or down - do they really need such a large engine merely to drive the generator. Shame the miniature jet engine concept from jaguar has currently dissapeared, perhaps it was simply not possible but it sounded so cool. What is really needed in the car market is an \'apple\' type company, someome that takes huge risk but pushes the boundaries to creat a huge step leap - we need an ipod moment
Calson
Problem is not range but long recharge times with the use of conventional battery technology. If I could drive a car 100 miles and stop at a recharge station for 5 minutes and then go on with my trip or return home it would make a great deal of difference in my ability to use an all electric car for commuting to work or making trips to stores. It presently takes me 5 minutes to refill my gas engine powered cars and even though their range is from 220 to 400 miles the shorter range is less of a problem than the need to recharge an electric car\'s batteries over a period of hours. What is needed is a capacitor design for vehicles.
Muraculous
The multi-fuel micro-turbine concept is alive and well (as a 35 to 40kW range extender) for battery powered vehicles. Also on the board is an alkaline aluminum-powered fuel cell that works right down to -40 degrees. Please send 5 million dollars for prototype assembly and testing :-)
Karsten Evans
Why not use a closed loop Steam generator then you can burn anything. Scandinavia had separate fuel heater in VW Beetles.. why not a small steam generator. If driving on a long journey.. set the steam generator on a slow burn and use the power to recharge the batteries on the move.. Simples
Dave B13
BFD General Motors has already been selling, since Dec. 2010, to US consumers the Chevrolet \'Volt\' a technological version of this Volvo \"concept\" to be test driven in 2012 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt BTW - Ford owned Volvo, sold it to China\'s Geely in 2010. http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-08-02-geely-volvo_N.htm So, this: \"The project, which is supported by he Swedish Energy Agency and the EU\" confuses me greatly.
Iosif Olimpiu
This can be a concept better than Toyota Prius, but the world need more(depend on the hidden people controling the petrol \"force\") I can\'t understand why the manufacturers can\'t include sollar cells in the windows, on the flor, or even in the paint composition. So many kind of sensors and intelligence, but we can\'t have or put some ideas on practice?
dgate
William, your idea of electric motor/generators in the transmission has been in use since 1998 in the Toyota Prius and without the complication and slippage of an inefficient torgue convertor. An explanation of how it works can be found online and its pure genious and so simple. Voiceofreason\'s suggestion is just how the GM Volt works and under certain circumstances the Prius will do the same i.e run the ICE as a constant speed generator while running on electric from the battery. The volt system is only efficient while running on pure battery electric. When the ICE kicks in it is less efficient than the Prius because the Toyota\'s ICE is driving the wheels directly. There is too much loss in the ICE to electric system compared to direct drive and fuel efficiency is the priority. The suggestion of capacitors is a non runner because they only store a short spike of energy. They are good at absorbing brake energy and releasing it for a burst of acceleration as in F1 cars but not for long distance running.
kelvint63
@Karsten; I've thought the same thing. The steam generator seems the most practical (we started the Auto industry with steam and electric; why not bring it full circle). Batteries are the biggest problem with EV's; they're big; heavy and expensive (the lighter ones are even more expensive). An onboard generator of any kind addresses this problem; it reduces the size of the batteries, hence lowering the weight, hence lowering the cost, plus you get more range. What am I missing here; looks like a win; win; win plus Winning. Duh!