Volvo Unveils Plans for New Range of Plug-in Hybrid Cars, First All-Electric Model Due by 2019

Following on the heels of its plea to the U.S. Federal government to set standards for autonomous vehicle technology, Swedish automaker Volvo has announced a brand-new electrification strategy which it says will see the introduction of plug-in hybrid models across the entire Volvo passenger car family and lead to the market debut of Volvo’s  first fully-electric production car by 2019.

The SPA underpinning the Volvo XC90 T8 will enable other plug-in hybrid Volvo models to be built.

The SPA underpinning the Volvo XC90 T8 will enable other plug-in hybrid Volvo models to be built.

According to an official press release made earlier today, Volvo says it hopes that electrified vehicles — that’s vehicles with some form of hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric drivetrain — to account for up to 10 percent of its total sales figures in the short to medium term.

While Volvo has been working on electric vehicles for many years, even producing limited quantities of its now discontinued C30 hatchback as an electric vehicle to test electric vehicles in the most extreme of conditions, the only plug-in models currently offered by the small luxury automaker are plug-in hybrid variants of its V60 station wagon and XC90 full-size SUV.

In the coming months however, Volvo says that it plans to use the same Scalable Product Architecture which underpins the XC90 and its new range of electric-motor-ready engines to bring a plug-in hybrid variant of its S90 sedan and other mid and full-size models to market.

These vehicles will use the same through-the-road hybrid drivetrain as the XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid and V60 plug-in hybrid, replacing the standard four-wheel drive system found on previous Volvo vehicles with a powerful electric motor mounted on the rear axle driving the rear wheels and a Twin Engine drivetrain consisting of an efficient internal combustion engine with combined starter motor generator driving the front wheels through a traditional automatic gearbox.

The all-new Volvo XC90 Twin Engine features a crankshaft driven Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) between the high-performance petrol engine and the 8-speed automatic gearbox.

The all-new Volvo XC90 Twin Engine features a crankshaft driven Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) between the high-performance petrol engine and the 8-speed automatic gearbox.

Using a built-in lithium-ion battery pack situated underneath the vehicle floor, current Volvo plug-in hybrid models can operate in all-electric mode for between 20 and 30 miles before requiring their on-board gasoline engines to kick in, with primary drive power provided by the rear-mounted electric motor. When all-electric four-wheel drive is required, either via driver request or as a consequence of traction control detecting a traction issue, the front starter motor generator can also drive the wheels via the eight-speed automatic transmission.

But while Volvo’s plug-in hybrid range can operate in all-electric mode for short trips, they are best used in plug-in hybrid mode on longer drives, where the car decides which of the twin powertrains to use.

Volvo’s flagship XC90 T8 Plug-in hybrid for example, can manage a 0-62 mph time of 5.6 seconds using both gasoline and electric power, as well as an overall NEDC fuel economy of 2.1 litres per 100 kilometers (134 imperial mpg, 112 U.S. mpg). Real world economy however, is expected to be nearer to 70 mpg US on trips between 30 and 100 miles. While that’s less than other plug-in hybrids, it’s’ still impressive for a full-size SUV although not as economical of course as Tesla’s recently-launched all-electric Model X SUV.

Volvo hopes to ultimately offer twin engine plug in hybrid variants of all of its cars.

Volvo hopes to ultimately offer twin engine plug in hybrid variants of all of its cars.

Using the successes of its SPA platform and its Twin Engine drivetrain, Volvo says another part of its electrification strategy will be the development of a brand-new range of smaller 40-series cars based on its newly-developed Compact Modular Architecture. (CMA). Designed to underpin Volvo’s compact and some mid-size models, CMA has also been built with electrification and plug-in hybrid drivetrain operation in mind. Details of this platform haven’t been released as yet, but Volvo promises the CMA platform will enable it to offer plug-in hybrid variants in the near future of its entire Volvo passenger car lineup.

For those eager to experience an all-electric Volvo however, the wait may a long one. Smaller in size to some automakers, Volvo has decided to focus first on plug-in hybrid rather than all-electric commercialization, meaning it’s likely a fully electric car — built on a new design — won’t be ready for market for some time.

Most plug-in hybrid variants will use a similar battery arrangement to that found in the Volvo XC90 T8 SUV

Most plug-in hybrid variants will use a similar battery arrangement to that found in the Volvo XC90 T8 SUV

At the moment, Volvo says the as-yet unnamed model, of which details will be released at a later date, will arrive “for sale by 2019.” By that point we’re guessing a range of at least 250 miles per charge will be required in order for Volvo to compete with affordable long-range models from Tesla, Nissan and General Motors, all of which plan to have sub $35,000 cars on the market by that point with ranges in excess of 200 miles per charge.

Also hinted at by Volvo is fully-inductive charging capability, meaning cars can be charged by parking them over a wireless inductive charging pad embedded in the ground.

Having driven the Volvo C30 electric and V60 PHEV, we’re well aware that Volvo has the capabilities to produce a compelling and interesting electriic car. But we can’t help but wonder if the Swedish firm is too late to the plug-in party to make much of an impact in the marketplace.

Do you agree? Is Volvo following the most logical progression towards electrification? Or will it miss out to other cars from Tesla, General Motors, Audi and Nissan?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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  • Chris O

    News flash Volvo: the high end market doesn’t really care about PHEVs, at least not in the US.

    YTD sales US sept 2015

    Caddy ELR: 740
    Porsche Panamera PHEV: 330
    MB 550 PHEV (juli-sept): 35

    Tesla Model S: ~17,000

    There is definitely a lesson to be learned here…