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Frankfurt show: Volvo firing on all four

Volvo set to debut new engine tech in mystery ‘Concept You’ at Frankfurt

8 Sep 2011

VOLVO will undertake an ambitious downsizing strategy to power all its future internal combustion models exclusively with a new, lightweight four-cylinder engine range that will debut in a mystery concept car at next-week’s Frankfurt motor show.

The Volvo Environmental Architecture (VEA) powertrain range will include both direct-injection petrol and diesel models, and no future non-electric car produced by Sweden’s number one car-maker will use more than four cylinders.

The company says its VEA engines will up to 90kg lighter and 35 per cent more fuel-efficient than the brand’s current range, while the number of unique parts in the compact new engines is said to have been reduced by 60 per cent.

Despite being cleaner and smaller, Volvo claims the new powertrains will deliver more performance than today’s six-cylinder units, along with lower fuel consumption than its current generation of four-cylinder units.

There is also scope for higher performance levels to be added in a green-friendly fashion, either via hybridisation or the brand’s flywheel-based kinetic energy recovery system (KERS).

As we’ve previously reported, this system is essentially a method of capturing brake energy via a super-fast flywheel that spins at up to 60,000rpm, before redistributing this power back into the driveline.

18 center imageLeft: Screen grabs from Concept You teaser video. Below: Concept Universe and Volvo-Siemens C30 prototype.

Volvo Car’s senior vice-president of research and development Peter Mertens said the system “offers the driver an additional 80 horsepower (60kW) while reducing fuel consumption by up to 80 per cent”.

The Scandinavian brand has said it plans to debut its new engine strategy at next week’s Frankfurt show via a mystery concept car called Concept You.

The company has posted a teaser video on its YouTube page (see below) that shows a range of detail sketches and elements of the interior, including what appears to be a modernist take on in-cabin wood inserts, as well as electric-blue dials.

Most interesting is the brief glimpse of the clamshell-style bonnet that appears to draw heavily from the controversial Concept Universe show car that Volvo took to this year’s Shanghai show.

The Concept Universe inspiration doesn’t appear to stop there, however, with a sketch from the video seeming to show a take on that car’s distinctive, rounded rectangular grille design surrounding the signature Volvo ‘ironmark’ badge on a diagonal slash.

While the Universe was widely tipped to preview the brand’s next-generation S80 flagship, it is unclear if this latest concept will preview a specific car, though the company is saying that it will feature an “athletic and dynamic aura”.

The Frankfurt concept will also preview the brand’s new lightweight Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), which Volvo says will help improve driving dynamics and fuel efficiency across its future product range.

The company claims the SPA set-up will help shave 100 to 150kg from future models, while also allowing for electrification at all levels. This weight-saving would appear to be particularly handy when paired with heavy EV drivetrains.

The new architecture will also streamline the build process for the brand by allowing most models to be built on the same production line irrespective of vehicle size and complexity.

And, more pertinently for car-buyers, the company says it is this new scalable architecture which will give its design team greater freedom to give forthcoming models “more exciting looks” – though models like the handsome XC60 SUV, S60 sedan and V60 wagon might suggest this is not currently a major problem for the brand.

Meanwhile, Volvo has also announced it will collaborate with Siemens in the development of electric vehicles, with C30 Electric-based test cars scheduled to be up and running by the end of this year.

The test cars will feature a Siemens electric motor which produces claimed peak power of 108kW and 220Nm of torque, which appears to be a relatively low ratio of peak torque to peak power.

Siemens – one of Europe’s largest engineering firms – will also provide “highly efficient” on-board and off-board charging systems, although no projected recharge times have been announced yet.

By the end of 2012, Volvo projects 200 examples of the jointly developed EV will be tested in real-life conditions as part of a Siemens internal test fleet.

This year has also seen the Swedish marque team up with Belgian firm Flanders Drive to work on wireless EV charging via induction.

The company’s Australian arm has previously confirmed that the V60 plug-in hybrid would be the first Volvo electric vehicle to make it to our shores when it arrives either late next year or early 2013.

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