Volvo ReCharge Concept

Published: 13 September 2007

A Volvo hybrid? Let me guess, it appeases the greens but fails to deliver in the real-world

The typical hybrid this is not. Instead of having an electric motor that only works at very low speeds before a regular engine cuts in, this C30 – dubbed ReCharge Concept – can be driven on electric-only power for 62 miles which is adequate for most commutes. Volvo claims a 66 percent reduction in C02 emissions compared with your common-or-garden hybrid, plus a 0-60mph dash in nine seconds and 100mph top speed. And as well as feeling good about enviro credentials, owners would save around 80 percent in running costs compared with a purely petrol equivalent if the ReCharge ever makes production.

How does it work?

The ReCharge Concept is a plug-in hybrid, the idea being you can charge it from any power socket (so having the car garaged would be a definite advantage if you’re too avoid tripping up pedestrians with lengthy extension cables), and four electric motors power each wheel. Key problems with previous plug-ins have been the lengthy charge periods required, but the ReCharge can be fully, erm, recharged in just three hours. Even a one-hour charge provides enough go for a 30-mile trip. Once 70 percent of the charge is used, the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine jumps in to save the day. Alternatively the driver can bring in petrol power at any time thanks to a dash-mounted button, allowing you to choose when to drive on electric-only power for longer journeys.

So the engine cuts in and the planet burns

Not quite. The ReCharge is a FlexiFuel car – something Ford, Volvo’s parent company, has had great success with in Scandinavia – meaning it can run on E85 bioethanol, an 85 percent/15 percent ethanol/petrol mix. And even for a 93-mile drive, Volvo claims just 2.8-litres of fuel would be required, equating to 124mpg. That’s a huge improvement on the Toyota Prius hybrid, which typically averages 45mpg in real-world conditions.

What’s the catch?

As with all these new-fangled, emissions-saving cars, there are a few drawbacks. For instance, electricity generation generally requires fossil fuels to be burnt (Volvo suggests using biogas, hydrapower or nuclear power, but we weren’t aware we had a choice), while there’s currently much debate about just how environmentally friendly bioethanol is when the energy involved in processing it is factored in. All in, however, the ReCharge is a very promising step forward in the bid to make genuinely usable cars that drastically cut our carbon footprints. Unfortunately, Volvo won’t commit to an on-sale date, but the technology is available now.

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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