Volvo eyes diesel hybrid for US roads

Posted by Joel Arellano, EarthTechling

In 2011, we reported that the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) would be coming to the U.S. We posted a follow-up that the information was inaccurate … at the time.

At this year’s New York International Auto Show, Doug Speck, senior vice president for Volvo’s Marketing, Sales & Customer Service, announced that the station sport wagon will, indeed, be sold here in the states as a 2014 model. Unfortunately, the U.S. version will be strictly gas-powered.

Why does Volvo continue to hesitate bringing over the V60 hybrid for the American consumer? The wagon is almost custom-built for our country, as least based on power and fuel economy.

As previously reported, the V60′s powertrain is composed of a 2.4-liter, five-cylinder turbodiesel engine married to a 50-kilowatt electric motor. The potent combo generates 215 horsepower and 324 lb.-ft. of torque. Drivers will have plenty of power to cruise down the highway to bolting for that precious spot between big rigs during rush hour traffic.

But the more impressive figures are the V60′s mileage numbers. The wagon has three distinct driving modes: Pure, Hybrid, and Power. In Pure mode, the Volvo V60 runs strictly on electric power and has a range of approximately 31 miles before the diesel engine kicks in.

Power mode, as the name implies, unleashes the full capacity of the engine and motors, allowing the wagon to effortlessly zoom from a standstill to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. It’s the wagon’s Hybrid mode, though, that gets the most raised eyebrows. According to Volvo, its V60 PHEV gets an amazing 130 mpg according to European standards, and has a range of 560 miles per tank.

States Speck in a release: "The ingenious on-demand possibility makes the V60 Plug-in Hybrid superior to all other hybrids on the market. Thanks to the Pure, Hybrid and Power modes, the car is the perfect choice for the uncompromising customer who wants to minimise his or her carbon dioxide emissions but maximise driving pleasure."

So what’s the holdup? Well, price for one. The 2013 Volvo V60 PHEV costs a not inconsiderable $76,000 across the pond. That price tag is right in the middle of luxury vehicle territory, and Volvo would have to drop the wagon’s price a lot to win our heart.

In addition, the V60 would be competing in a marketplace dominated by five-, six-, and seven-passenger crossovers, minivans and SUVs, all of which can be had for half the wagon’s price tag. The automaker discontinued the larger V70 station wagon in 2011 due to abysmal sales. Volvo has fared better with its XC60, XC70 and XC90 crossovers, which are built to American tastes.

Our conclusion? Until Volvo figures out a way to make a profit on the V60 PHEV here, don’t expect the hybrid EV station wagon zooming on U.S. roads anytime soon.

* Joel Arellano, EarthTechling