Volvo rethinks the hybrid car

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Volvo rethinks the hybrid car

Frankfurt (Germany) – Volvo today unveiled its “ReCharge Concept”, which could be a first glimpse at tomorrow’s commuter car. Other than the hybrid vehicles today, the ReCharge uses the electric motor as the main engine and a combustion engine as support – resulting in a gas consumption rating that should easily exceed 100 mpg in everyday use.

In Pictures: Volvo C30 ReCharge Concept …The ReCharge Concept is based on the Volvo C30, a compact that competes in the same category as a VW Golf or the Mazda 3. In the U.S., the C30 is marketed to young people looking for sporty performance – the only model offered here is the T5 with 227 hp; In other parts of the world, Volvo also offers less sporty, but more energy-efficient models such as a 1.6-liter, 103 hp diesel that is rated at up to 56 mpg (the U.S. model is rated at 19/28 mpg).

The ReCharge concept puts a different spin on the hybrids we are used to today and promises to boost the C30’s gas consumption further up – much further up. It uses a lithium-polymer battery pack in the trunk, four electric motors (one at each wheel)  electric engine as well as an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) as the primary system to keep the car in motion. A regular Flexfuel combustion engine is present just in case the electric power is consumed up.

Volvo claims that there is enough electric juice to keep the car going for 62 miles without the need to kick in the gas engine. According to Magnus Jonsson, senior vice president of Research and Development at Volvo Cars, 80% of drivers in the U.S. drive less than this distance every day, which means that these drivers will rarely see a gas station. But if you go on longer drives, say 150 km or 93 miles and the gas engine will be needed the average fuel consumption on this distance will be about 124 mpg, Volvo said. The longer the ride, the worse the gas efficiency (by default the gas engine will be activated when 70% of the battery power is used up): If only the gas engine is used, the car will achieve about 42 mpg, the manufacturer claims.

There are several interesting innovations in the ReCharge to increase the gas mileage. Perhaps most interesting is the APU, which steps in when battery charge becomes insufficient for “adequate” driving performance. The APU can also be used as an external power source for other applications and, according to Volvo, is powerful enough to supply an entire house with electricity. There’s a whole different thought process in this concept: Plug your house into your car, if the lights go out during the next thunderstorm.

Of course, driving performance of the ReCharge Concept cannot be compared to the regular turbo-charged car, but it may be sufficient for commuting needs: Volvo said the car will accelerate from 0-62 mph in 9 seconds and reach a top speed just under 100 mph. And besides making you more independent from gas consumption, there is an environmental factor in there as well: “This plug-in hybrid car, when used as intended, should have about 66% lower emissions of carbon dioxide compared with the best hybrid cars available on the market today. Emissions may be even lower if most of the electricity in intended markets comes from CO2-friendly sources such as biogas, hydropower and nuclear power,” says Magnus Jonsson.

Volvo did not say when the ReCharge could become a reality for consumers to purchase. Possible pricing was also kept out of the announcement, but we do hope that the car will be cheaper than Tesla’s battery-only roadster.