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Volvo to Offer Plug-In Option Across Model Line
Jim Motavalli gets to check out Volvo's V60 electric hybrid , while learning the company will offer its plug-in drive on its other models.
PluginCars 03 Jul 2014
I'm sitting in the Swedish modern headquarters of Volvo U.S.A. in Rockleigh, New Jersey, right across from a shiny V60 wagon emblazoned with lettering proclaiming it as one of the new 2015 E-Drive cars, boasting of both 240 horsepower and 37 mpg on the highway.
The turbocharged E-Drive cars are a very welcome addition to the lineup, because for 2014 Volvo had not only no cars with plugs, it had none with four-cylinder engines. Because of that fortunately temporary situation, Volvo came in dead last in compliance with the 2014 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, worse even than Jaguar/Land Rover. Eeek! Super-green Volvo!
Plug-In Options on Every Model
Volvo, best known for stellar safety, has long emphasized protecting its occupants over protecting their wallets at the gas pumps. But now that’s changing in a big way. Dean Shaw, Volvo’s vice president of corporate communications, tells me that the company is not only switching to 100 percent four-cylinder power, it’s also planning a plug-in hybrid version of every single model in its lineup.
And that’s why I’m here in New Jersey. The company is refreshing its whole product line, and by the end of 2017 all Volvos will ride on scaled versions of the new seven-passenger XC90 platform. The XC90 will be revealed in August (then shown at the Paris and Los Angeles auto shows in the fall). The "think simple" strategy is called Scalable Product Architecture, with all of the to-come vehicles getting either gas or diesel turbo fours.
Doing Well in Europe
Volvo launched its V60 plug-in hybrid, a diesel, in Europe only, and Shaw says it’s the number one plug-in hybrid there now. In 2013, the company sold 7,739 V60 plug-in hybrids (and another 3,230 through May this year) at a price that would translate to $85,488 in Britain. Production has been upped twice and, in May, the company added an R-Design version.
The biggest markets are, in order, Netherlands (where the car is attracting buyers who normally drive Porsches), Sweden, Belgium, Germany and France. But with the U.S. market notoriously gun-shy about diesels, Volvo thinks we can wait for a gas version.
But don’t worry, Americans are going to get a 2016 plug-in hybrid sometime next year, off the new XC90. Few details of that car are available yet, but I did the next-best-thing—I drove one of the few Euro-spec V60s on U.S. soil. It’s a remarkable car, complex under the skin but basically seamless for the driver. “Anyone can just jump in the V60 and take off,” Shaw said. And that diesel problem? Forget about it—it’s nearly impossible to tell, driving this car, that it’s a diesel at all. There's no black smoke, no poky acceleration (zero to 60 comes up in 6.9 seconds), and no annoying diesel lag.
The V60 wagon, one of the more attractive recent Volvos, is powered by a 2.4-liter, five-cylinder diesel, delivering 215 horsepower (and 325 pound feet of torque) to the front wheels. On the back wheels, a 20-kilowatt (50 kilowatt peak) electric motor offers 70 horsepower (and 148 pound feet). The water-cooled li-ion battery is 11.2 kilowatt-hours, stored under the cargo floor (and compromising storage space somewhat).
30 Miles as an Electric
The driver controls this “through the road” hybrid layout through three buttons: Pure/Hybrid/Power. With the first, there’s up to 31 miles of all-electric driving (including at highway speeds). The V60 will stay electric unless you really put your foot into it, when the diesel kicks in to supplement. Hybrid is normal operation, and Power turns everything up to 11.
I drove the V60 in the wooded suburbs surrounding Rockleigh, and was knocked out by how effortless it all was. Yes, the car’s quiet in electric mode, but it’s not hugely noisier with the diesel running, and the transitions are hard to detect. If you were paying attention, you noticed how much torque is potentially on tap, and the car really takes off in “Power” mode. The hybrid drivetrain adds 550 pounds of weight, but doesn’t turn the V60 in to a slug. Weight-saving efforts are concentrating on boron steel, not (as at other automakers) aluminum or carbon fiber.
One of the best features of the V60 is the “Save” button, which not only will keep the charge in reserve until you’re in optimal conditions (off the highway, for instance) but also charges the battery while you’re driving. We started out with six miles of EV range and ended up with nine.
There’s a graphic representation of power flow, as in cars like the Prius. Volvo’s screen interface is a little busy for me, but there’s no shortage of available information, and you can use apps to remotely find or unlock the car. The test car was loaded with features like dynamic traction stability control, collision warning, blind spot monitoring, heated seats and voice controls.
Yes, Volvo has shown a class of battery electric C30s, and some of those were in test programs in Europe, as well as available to company execs in the U.S. A few were in Rockleigh, but I didn't get to see them. The program is basically moribund, though Volvo is exploring new motor technology with Siemens. The company is really betting on plug-in hybrids.
Shaw said that Volvo’s fuel economy target with its new platform is to be best-in-class in every segment in which it competes. Green car customers who’ve let Volvo slip from their radar may want to tune in to its signals again. The company sold 61,000 cars to Americans in 2013 (virtually the same as its China sales), but it’s aiming for 100,000 here once it has all the four-cylinder models on line.
Volvo Electric Hybrid Offers Driving Range/Emissions Compromise
Neil Winton reviews Volvo's B60 Plug-in Hybrid, finding that he prefers compromising on the side of a bit of petrol-dependence versus 'purist' favored all-electric cars.
Forbes 03 Jun 2014
The choice is yours. You can be a purist and brag about zero emissions with a battery-only powered vehicle with limited and unpredictable range which requires an expensive charging network to make it viable. Or you can compromise a bit with a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with modest battery-only performance, but backed up by conventional technology which matches the range and flexibility of regular vehicles. There’s no need for manufacturers to spend fortunes on a charging infrastructure.
Put like that, the case for plug-in hybrids like the Volvo V60 against the battery-only vehicle seems overwhelming. I’ve been driving the V60 diesel-electric hybrid and although Volvo’s claims for overall fuel consumption of almost 130 miles per U.S. gallon seems impossibly over the top, the fuel efficiency is way better than conventionally powered vehicles of this size.
The V60 Plug-in Hybrid R-Design combines a powerful five-cylinder 2.4 litre, 215 hp diesel engine with an electric motor producing 70 hp. The diesel powers the front wheels, the electric motor the rear ones. From rest to 60 mph takes 5.8 seconds. You can select three modes, Pure, Hybrid and Power. “Pure” runs on just the battery and will give you about 30 miles range. “Hybrid” mixes battery and diesel power, and will capture some energy to replenish the battery. “Power” will just engage the diesel and will allow you to conserve the battery if you plan on entering an electric-only zone in a town. This version combines luxury as well as performance and its price undermines its utility case. In Britain it sells for the equivalent of $86,500 after taxes but before a government grant of $8,375.
The technology works well, and there will be much more affordable versions soon made by this and other manufacturers as the concept is developed and proven. Volvo’s decision to use a diesel rather than a gasoline engine means higher cruising speeds are possible with better economy than you would get with a more conventional hybrid, but the company will offer a gas-electric hybrid. The diesel hybrid isn’t going to be available in the U.S. It eventually plans petrol electric hybrids in the U.S.
Volvo, owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China, claims the V-60 plug-in hybrid’s official average fuel consumption is 129.2 miles per U.S. gallon, but this depends heavily on the type of trip involved, and your familiarity with the car. On a trip driving across country with speeds rarely over 60 mph and mainly using the diesel engine, the car returned 40.1 mpg. Other more urban trips which were able to engage battery-only use more often, returned 57.0 mpg and 67.9 mpg.
Dr Peter Wells of the Centre of Automotive Industry Research at the Cardiff Business School said the choice between plug-in hybrid and battery-only isn’t that simple. It depends on the needs of the car buyer.
“Is an electric vehicle better than a plug-in? It depends on what kind of driving you do,” Wells said.
A battery-only car would be suited to those who needed transportation just for a fixed commute.
“The average consumer might prefer the plug-in hybrid for the extra flexibility. But that does mean a lot of the time the car is pulling around a lot of heavy kit for no purpose. On the highway, the hybrid is only contributing weight and cost. You are paying for a lot of redundancy, Wells said.
A recent report from Morgan Stanley MS -0.16% underlined the likely inside track that plug-in hybrids will have, saying pure electric vehicles have failed to meet sales targets, and over-ambitions global projections will have to be scaled back. Renault of France used to claim that 10 per cent of global car sales would be electric-only by 2020. This is more likely to be closer to one per cent, the report said.
IHS Automotive predicts that by 2020, global production of PHEVs will exceed electric vehicles by a ratio of 55:45.
Al Bedwell, analyst with LMC Automotive, agrees PHEVs are likely to have the edge on battery-only cars, especially in the luxury segment.
“We show plug-in hybrids overtaking battery electric vehicles within five years. Their natural home would appear to be in the premium segment as they do add considerable cost and the premium segment has the biggest CO2 problem to solve,” Bedwell said.
“Regarding diesel versus gasoline PHEVs, I think both can succeed in Europe. On paper at least, both diesel and gasoline PHEVs achieve very respectable economy and both offer the electric-only ability that people are very fond of,” Bedwell said.
“There’s still a place for battery electric vehicles, but I don’t see a battery price/capability breakthrough any time soon so this will continue to be a barrier to widespread demand. At the moment I don’t think we can confidently pick winners but I’d put my money on PHEVs and in the longer term, fuel cells,” Bedwell said.
Compromisers one, purists nil?
Test Drive: Volvo V60 Plug-In Electric Hybrid
UK publication gives its impressions on Volvo's electric hybrid that offers up to 31 miles of EV-mode driving range.
EV Fleet World/UK 17 Jan 2014
Volvo’s approach to electromobility is a distinctive one. The V60 Plug-in Hybrid offers tax-conscious CO2 emissions and the potential for staggering fuel economy, but it’s a true Jekyll and Hyde car, pairing this with near-T6 performance and all-weather traction.
Under the bonnet is the familiar 215bhp D5 diesel engine, powering the front wheels. The rear wheels are driven using a 70bhp electric rear axle, supplied by a lithium-ion battery under the boot floor. Fully charged, it’ll cover around 30 miles without burning a drop of diesel, and it can provide four-wheel drive traction when needed.
Combine the two, and the V60 changes character completely. The drivetrain produces 285bhp, propelling the two-tonne estate car 60mph in 5.8 seconds. But it’s a typical fast Volvo, effortlessly reaching high speeds rather than pinning occupants to their seats.
Aside from the silence in electric mode, it feels like a conventional automatic V60 to drive. Ride quality has suffered a little compared to the rest of the range, but the interior is otherwise as comfortable. The boot has lost a few inches in depth, too, but Volvo’s unmistakeable squared-off back end means it’s still a practical shape which can be stacked to the roof as needed.
But what really impresses is the flexibility on offer. Unlike some plug-in hybrids, the V60 can drive at motorway speeds using only its electric motor, making it a great commuter car. It’s also intelligent enough to engage the diesel engine as required, even in fully electric mode, which means there’s always power on tap should the need to overtake arise.
The amount of throttle input required varies depending whether it’s in one of three selected driving modes. In Pure, it prioritises electric drive where possible, which essentially makes the V60 a 70bhp electric rear-wheel drive car. Hybrid mode will still avoid burning diesel if it can, but is more willing to engage the engine if needed. Finally, Power unleashes the drivetrain’s full performance, though with a sacrifice in economy as the diesel engine is usually switched on.
To really make the most of the drivetrain, additional buttons on the dashboard allow the driver to force the car to run on diesel and save the electric mode for town centres, or a full four-wheel drive mode for slippery conditions.
Volvo’s only omission is the ability to rapid charge, which would allow the car to add a useful amount of range at the growing network of charging points on motorway services. The on-board charger is compatible with three-pin sockets and 16-Amp wallboxes, but adds single digit range per hour stopped. With the backup of a diesel engine, it’s not a dealbreaker, but it’d be a useful way to raise the car’s average fuel economy.
The V60 Plug-in Hybrid is expected to attract a predominantly corporate sales mix, and at this price it’s hardly surprising. The rich technology underneath doesn’t come cheap, but BiK at 5% brings BiK costs down to normal V60 levels for drivers, while Londoners will welcome its congestion charge exemption.
But this is a car which will suit a specific driver. Drivers covering long motorway miles are still better in one of Volvo’s new low-CO2 diesel engines. Those who commute less than 30 miles per day (60 if the office has a charging point) will rarely use the petrol engine and reap the biggest rewards - not only in terms of economy, but from the high performance estate car lurking underneath.
The V60 offers best bits of a hybrid, EV and high performance all-wheel drive Volvo estate wrapped up in one car. But don’t expect to enjoy all three at once. Long motorway miles quickly erode the fuel economy figures, and unleashing its full power on short trips will do much the same. If it suits your commute, you’re in for a real treat.
Sector: Compact Executive
Type: Diesel-electric plug-in hybrid
Price: £44,275 (after government grant)
Electric range: 31 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 48g/km
Volvo's V60 Electric Hybrid Is Game-Changer
Continuing strong demand for Volvo's plug-in crossover is compelling the Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker to keep raising its production numbers.
Motley Fool 01 Sep 2013
Last year, Geely Automobile Holdings' Volvo launched its first-ever V60 diesel plug-in hybrid, and this year, its popularity has skyrocketed. So far, it's sold out across Europe, was one of three finalists for the 2013 Green Car of the Year award, and was Volvo's most popular new car launch, ever. What's more, this success may pave the way for an American launch of a Volvo plug-in. Here's what else you need to know.
The V60 Plug-In Hybrid
In 2010, Ford sold Volvo to Geely, and things didn't look promising for Volvo -- especially after the 2011 reveal of the Universal Concept. But after the successful launch of the V60 Plug-In Hybrid, or PHEV, that outlook may be changing.
Starting at $74,000 -- before U.K. incentives -- the V60 PHEV can go 31 miles per electric charge, before switching to a 212 HP, 2.4 turbodiesel engine, with 324 pound-feet of torque. Weighing just over 4,400 pounds, the V60 PHEV can go from 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds, has a top speed of 143 mph while running on gas, and can hit 78 mph when running on all-electric.
The battery that powers the V60 PHEV is an 11.2 kWh lithium-ion battery, but it uses only 8 kWh. Further, Volvo states that under Europe's New European Driving Cycle, the official fuel economy figure is 155.2 mpg. The car also has AWD, a five-star crash rating, a full SE Lux specification, and the ability to drive in three different modes: Pure (all electric), Hybrid, and, Power (all diesel). And it can seat five and with plenty of room left for storage.
Sales are sky-high
The initial V60 PHEV launch was for 1,000 cars, and they sold out before hitting the showroom. Then the V60 PHEV qualified for the U.K. plug-in grant, which brought the price to around $65,000. That caused Volvo to raise production to 4,000-6,000 for 2013. But sales have been so strong that Volvo said it might raise production to 10,000.
Volvo had been slow to release a "green car," citing lack of demand, and the V60 isn't available in the United States. However, the success of the V60 PHEV may be enough to change Volvo's mind. And even if Volvo doesn't bring this car to America, there are a number of concept models, such as the XC60 PHEV SUV, that Volvo sees as marketable in the U.S. and China. Considering the U.S. and China are the two biggest names when it comes to automotive sales, a hot-selling PHEV would be great for Volvo.
Volvo has already shown that its V60 PHEV is a powerful force in the sales department, so if the company decides to release it in the U.S., or introduce a different PHEV, it will be something to watch.
Electric vehicles have been slowly gaining in popularity -- whether it's a PHEV, a BEV, or any other variation. But sales for EVs are still low and make up only a limited market share. Consequently, any new EV release will probably affect other EV sales. Here's an example: At the beginning of 2012, there were really only three comparable EVs available -- General Motors' Chevy Volt, Toyota's Prius Plug-In Hybrid, and Nissan's Leaf.
Overall, the Prius Plug-In sold relatively well -- in fact, it was the second best-selling plug-in. But in May, Ford saw its first sales of the Focus Electric, and that was followed by more EV releases. By 2013 there were a number of EVs available -- and Toyota saw a steady decline in sales.
As 2013 has progressed, more EVs -- such as the Chevy Spark -- have become available, and the Volt and Leaf have struggled, while sales of other EVs have climbed. Thanks to the limited market, having more EVs come to market dilutes other EV sales.
The V60 PHEV is a luxury hybrid, and it's already competing with Tesla Motors' Model S for European sales -- the 40 kWh isn't available outside the U.S, and the 60 kWh Model S starts around $91,000 outside the United States. If the V60 PHEV comes to America, it'll compete with Tesla in the luxury EV market. And if Volvo decides to release XC60 PHEV SUV, it could compete with Tesla's Model X.
What to watch
Right now, sales for the V60 PHEV are incredibly strong and seem to be getting stronger. That makes it a game-changer for Volvo. However, Volvo's production of the V60 PHEV is limited, and it's a diesel, so It may not make it to the U.S anytime soon -- although there are rumors to the contrary. If the V60 PHEV does come to the U.S., this is a vehicle to watch -- not only for what it can do for Volvo's profits, but also for how it could affect other EVs', and in particular Tesla's, sales.
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Test Driving Volvo's V60 Plug-In Electric Hybrid
V60 electric hybrid gets generally good review by Bath Chronicle with the only real complaint being the £44,000 sticker price.
This Is Bath/UK 03 May 2013
How much would you pay for an estate that had four-wheel drive, prodigious torque and the ability to hit 60mph from rest in under six seconds. Forty grand?
For not much more than that, Volvo's V60 Plug-In Hybrid does all of that and will also return 155mpg and 48g/km of emissions.
In theory at least. There are a few caveats that suggest that this is a work in progress, but the numbers are mightily impressive.
That the V60 Plug-In Hybrid is rapid isn't up for debate. With power going to all four-wheels, it'll hit 60mph in just 5.8 seconds when switched into Power mode. Here you get the 69bhp electric motor augmenting the 212bhp 2.4-litre turbodiesel, giving an initial slug of torque while the turbochargers spool up, the six-speed automatic taking the thinking out of straight line acceleration.
Top speed is rated at 140mph and when clicked into Pure mode, you can run the V60 on electric power alone up to a max of 78mph. Impressive stuff. It won't go for very far like this before the diesel motor harrumphs back into life but what else does motorway speeds on electric power? The ride quality is firm thanks to the stiff run-flat tyres and the handling isn't helped by the additional 250kg of batteries, no matter that they're mounted low in the car to help with centre of gravity. So yes, this is a very quick car but it's certainly no hot hatch when shown a tricky set of corners. The chassis and suspension does its best but the weight of a pair of burly policemen has an inevitable effect.
The Volvo V60's a discreetly good looking thing too. Its roofline curves gently down towards the rear and the bonnet curls down towards the nose. Where old Volvo designs were a riot of right-angles, this one has barely a straight line on it. It's not just different for the sake of being different though.
The alert stance, short overhangs and sleek shape work well. Inside, there's similar attention paid to the aesthetics with a stylish dash and clearly presented controls – but is it practical?
Make no mistake, the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid is a very impressive vehicle. How could a well-equipped and beautifully finished estate car that can crack six seconds to 60mph yet still average better than 60mpg when driven with no great regard to fuel economy be anything but? The problem is that in achieving these seemingly contradictory achievements, it imposes a number of compromises that many won't be prepared to countenance.
It weighs a handful of kilos off two tonnes and you'll notice that through corners. It rides very firmly.
It's no more spacious than a Ford Focus. And it costs nearly £44,000. These are not trifling concerns and while Volvo should be applauded for bringing what is undeniably a very special car to market, it's one that will only really work for the smallest of customer niches.
Volvo's supremely modest sales target of 150 sales per year recognises this fact, but should this vehicle fit your specific requirements, you'll probably love it for its other-wordly abilities. For the rest of us, it's merely a briefly diverting curiosity.
Volvo V60 Plug-In Earns Highest EuroNCAP Safety Score
The battery pack in the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is well encapsulated and located under the load floor making it as safe as the standard V60.
Motorward 30 Nov 2012
Volvo’s astonishing new V60 plug-in hybrid achieves the highest score ever recorded by an electrified plug-in hybrid car in EuroNCAP’s latest crash tests. Being a Volvo of course, it sailed through the test snatching all five stars without breaking a sweat. But being the safest in its class is a remarkable achievement.
Volvo had to devise new safety measures for this car, what with the battery pack, added weight and all the electrical bits and bobs. So the structure has been modified and reinforced to enable a controlled deformation to help provide a high safety level. The battery pack in the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is well encapsulated and located under the load floor. So Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is just as safe as the standard V60.
The V60 hybrid also wows in terms of fuel consumption. It offers three driving modes: Pure, Hybrid and Power. Fuel consumption is just 1.8 l/100 km (48 g/km CO2) in Hybrid mode, which is more than amazing.
“We apply the same high standards to all our products. The Euro NCAP score demonstrates that the ingenious V60 Plug-in Hybrid features the same outstanding safety level as the standard car,” says Jan Ivarsson, Senior Manager Safety Strategy & Requirements at Volvo Car Group.
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