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Volvo developing XC90 plug-in

Future Swede: This sketch published late last year by Car and Driver gives an idea of what the next Volvo XC90 might look like when it arrives in 2014.

Next-gen Volvo XC90 to get alternative diesel-electric hybrid powertrain

Volvo logo19 Jun 2012

By RON HAMMERTON in GOTHENBURG

THE next-generation Volvo XC90 SUV is set to spawn another plug-in hybrid vehicle for the Swedish company, two years after the release in Europe later this year of the pioneering V60 D6 diesel-electric wagon that is on the wish-list for Australian release in 2013.

Volvo’s next flagship SUV is due to arrive in Europe in 2014 on an all-new scalable platform with a range of fresh drivetrains, including totally new four-cylinder engine ranges in petrol, diesel and hybrid.

Volvo Car Corporation 60 series product manager Fredrik Hofling confirmed to GoAuto that the replacement for the current XC90 would include a plug-in hybrid powertrain, which he said would be a development of the system in the new V60 D6 plug-in hybrid – Volvo’s first such vehicle.

The V60 Plug-in Hybrid will go into production in November, in both right-hand drive and left-hand drive formats for global markets including Australia.

But do not expect a full-electric vehicle from Volvo any time soon, as the company appears to be shying away from series EV production after a seemingly lacklustre trial of the C30 DRIVe electric car across a number of nations since last year.

Volvo has been disappointed by the progress in both battery performance and cost reduction of components such as the battery, leaving EVs an unanswered conundrum.

18 center imageFrom top: Current Volvo XC90 V60 plug-in hybrid C30 DRIVe.

Instead, Volvo is pushing on with production of its plug-in hybrid models, starting with the diesel-electric V60 D6 wagon that will combine a 2.4-litre five-cylinder engine driving the front wheels and a 50kW electric motor turning the rear wheels.

The vehicle is expected to go on sale in small numbers in Australia as an environmental flagship from next year.

Future Volvo models equipped with hybrid powertrains will benefit from a new partnership with German company Siemens – a world leader in electric motor expertise.

A motor from Siemens is expected to grace the hybrid version of the next XC90, which will be the first vehicle built on a new platform that will underpin the next S60, V70, X60 and S80.

Volvo commercial manager for the company’s only production EV to date, Johan Konnberg, told GoAuto that another batch of 100 C30 hatchbacks equipped with full electric powertrains would go into production with the new Siemens motor next year, replacing the current unit made in Switzerland.

But he said he did not know if another batch would follow, in C30 or another form.

So far, a run of 250 C30 DRIVe electric hatchbacks has done duty in Europe, China and the United States, pouring data and personal experiences into the Volvo research system.

However, Volvo is reluctant to throw its weight into commercialisation of the concept yet, revealing that the cost of the venture has been well in excess of the amount charged for each customer.

Under the European trial system, Volvo leases the C30 DRIVe to selected customers, with a guaranteed buyback at the end of a three-year lease.

While anecdotal evidence suggests most users are happy with the cars, Volvo is not convinced the business case for mass production will stack up.

Mr Konnberg said Volvo had entered into the project with certain expectations that battery costs and other technology imposts would continue to decline, making a production vehicle viable.

“That has not happened as expected,” he said.

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