Volvo C30 Recharge: GM Is Not Alone with Flexible Platform Concept

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Not at all unlike the GM E-Flex platform in concept, shown first under the Chevrolet Volt and in Frankfurt under the Opel Flextreme, the Volvo Recharge at the 2007 Frankfurt show used a lithium-ion battery pack to power individual electric wheel motors. (Follow this link to see Volvo’s press conference.) The internal combustion engine on board is used for backup and battery recharging only, and has no part in moving the vehicle. The Recharge was designed for plug-in application, with Volvo estimating about three hours for a full charge. Volvo estimated the electric-only range to be about 62 miles, leading the company to note that Recharge would be best suited for those with daily round-trip commutes below that distance. While GM has shown its E-Flex platform with concept-car bodies above, Volvo put their new C30 on top of the Recharge platform.

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California Development
The Volvo Recharge was developed at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in California, partly in an effort to look at electric-only operation for meeting future C02 emissions requirements. Volvo says the 62-mile range is sufficient for many drivers to never need a gas station, describing the concept as “exceptionally kind to the car owner’s wallet.” Given that this technology is considerably more expensive than the proven internal combustion engine, and that looking to the nation’s electricity grid to fuel your car shifts energy supply and consumption without eliminating the need or overall usage, that statement seems bold and premature. Operating costs may well be lower, but initial cost is likely to be significantly higher. Volvo estimates that electric power only would mean operating costs about 80 percent lower than a gasoline-fed vehicle, and it is true that using an ultra-efficient 1.6L I4 engine to recharge the battery, instead of using it moving the vehicle directly, it would use far less fuel than if it were the primary power source.

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With one electric motor at each wheel and each providing independent traction as well as contributing to optimal weight distribution, the Recharge is effectively a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The Recharge’s engine serves as a generator, which Volvo calls its Auxiliary Power Unit, and it steps in when battery power is not strong enough to move the car. As a side bonus, Volvo theorizes that the generator unit could even serve as a power source for the home in a power outage, though they didn’t estimate for how long.
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This Auxiliary Power Unit, more commonly known as an engine, can also be driver selected. The engine automatically starts if 70 percent of the battery power has been used, but the driver can start the engine sooner to save battery capacity (though not to actually move the vehicle). Volvo notes this could be helpful, say, when traveling more than 100 kilometers. Volvo also claims a nine-second zero-to-62mph time, so the Recharge isn’t winning any stoplight races. This is fast enough, however, for most traffic situations, with a little planning. And, of course, regenerative braking is also used to ensure that braking energy contributes to battery recharge, too.
The Volvo Recharge, like GM’s system, does not require customers install unique outlets at home or work, just standard electrical outlets in convenient places. The estimate for a full charge is three hours, with a one-hour charge boosting the battery enough to get about thirty miles. Also like both Opel Flextreme and more so the Chevrolet Volt, the body on top of this cutting-edge technology is contemporary, stylish, and attractive.
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The best of these concepts is that they advance research and will result in improved technology and new solutions, regardless of the final form those solutions take.

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