Volvo Outlines New Engine and Platform Technologies

By Jason Davis | September 06, 2011
Most people think Volvo is about safety, its well-earned reputation garnered from decades of building the safest cars. Some believe Volvo is about shape, like the boxy wagons of the 70's and 80's. Yet, others think Volvo is about its quirky five-cylinder engine technology, an ode to both the driver and the environment. Of course, while Volvo never lost its focus on safety, a lot of things changed during its ownership by Ford. Its vehicles got bigger and heavier, its engines grew more cylinders, and the company became a lot more mainstream overall. But with its new independence and Chinese ownership, the Swedish automaker can again show that not all manufacturers need think alike. And while it is late to the "what are we going to do about CAFE?" game, it's a game it may help define. Yesterday, Volvo announced that it is focusing on fuel economy on its own terms.
"It's time to stop counting cylinders. At the Frankfurt Motor Show we will reveal a new concept car. It proves that downsized engines can go hand in hand with our customers' expectations on luxury and driving pleasure," said Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development at the Volvo Car Corporation. For Volvo, the aforementioned cylinder-count drops to four, yet it promises the performance of a six cylinder. To achieve this, Volvo is looking beyond the engine to a new "scalable platform architecture" that weighs 300 pounds less than its current vehicles, which were co-developed with Ford. In addition, Volvo will introduce a new hybrid technology called Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). It stores braking energy in a specially designed flywheel which rotates at up to 60,000 rpm. Essentially acting as a mechanical battery, the energy is then used to help propel the car, ultimately providing up to 80 hp and a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption. The KERS will enable the new Volvo Environmental Architecture engine, which is up to 200 pounds lighter than outgoing engines, to feel more responsive and powerful to drivers while delivering up to 35 percent better fuel economy. "Our four-cylinder focus is the perfect way for us to quickly reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. We will develop four-cylinder engines with higher performance than today's six-cylinder units and lower fuel consumption than the current four-cylinder generation," said Mertens.'s take: The "power-to-weight" idea behind Volvo's engine and platform changes are not new to the automotive industry, and it is, in fact, a chief racing strategy. To boost power, Volvo may continue to use turbochargers for its small engines, as well as electric-hybrid drives. This too, is nothing new. The game changer, however, is Volvo's KERS and lightweight scalable platform. If the quirky Swede can deliver big and efficient power in a lightweight package, it could soon be looking down on—not up to—its snooty German rivals. Source: Volvo