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Volvo+Saab Join on PHEVs; Correction: Toyota IQ not a PHEV; Volt Feedback
Mar 17, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Three items about the auto industry and PHEVs:

  • Ford-owned Volvo and GM-owned Saab join with the Swedish government, Vatenfall, and ETC AB to develop PHEVs.
  • We correct a misleading European media report about the Toyota iQ, scheduled for mass production in 2009: in fact it's not a PHEV. Toyota's evident intention to mass-produce PHEVs sometime around 2010 stands. (We've updated the information at our popular page, How Carmakers are Responding to the Plug-In Hybrid Opportunity­carmakers.html .)
  • GM's invitation to users to give their views on data-collection and display for the GM Volt gets an avalanche of user opinions overnight.

Many people, including our Icelandic colleagues working to develop the second annual conference "Driving Sustainability: Fueling the Future of Transport," were very interested in the new developments in Sweden (which participated heavily in last September's conference). They note that Vattenfall (Swedish word for water-fall referring to hydropower) is the biggest energy generator in Sweden. ETC AB is a battery and fuel cell company in Sweden. Following are press releases from Volvo and Vattenfall plus a report from CNET.

Volvo Car Corporation launches unique cooperation for the development of plug-in hybrid cars in Sweden­news/­2008/­03/­14/­080949.html

GÖTEBORG, SWEDEN - Together with electricity provider Vattenfall, Saab Automobile, ETC and the Swedish state, Volvo Car Corporation is launching a joint broad-based research venture to develop spearhead technology in the area of plug-in hybrid cars. Sweden will be the arena for the field tests.

"I see this project as a positive further development of sustainable personal transport. We have a unique opportunity to take the lead when it comes to innovations for advanced green-car technology", says Fredrik Arp, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation.

The aim of the project, which is being carried out jointly by Volvo Car Corporation, Saab Automobile, Vattenfall and ETC, is to develop and demonstrate the next-generation hybrid cars. A fleet of 10 plug-in hybrids will be produced that can be recharged directly from the mains wall socket.

Volvo has long experience of cooperation with a variety of society's actors and with this project the company aims to participate in and shape decisions and initiatives that are taken both within and outside the car industry.

"We want to be involved in setting up the rules for the future and to help build up broad-based competence in Sweden in this vital area," says Fredrik Arp.

Over a five-year period, Volvo Cars will invest just over 11 billion SEK in development aimed at reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Volvo already offers its customers one of the industry's widest ranges of Flexifuel engines. In parallel the company is continuing to enhance the efficiency of its petrol- and diesel-powered cars. 2008 will see the launch of car models that release less than 120 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

Volvo Cars is also focusing intensively on hybrid technology. In the medium term the company will introduce hybrid variants where an electric motor supports the combustion engine. In the longer term, plug-in hybrids will be introduced. One example of this was presented in autumn 2007 with the Volvo C30 ReCharge Concept. Used in the most effective way, this concept car cuts emissions of carbon dioxide by about 65 percent compared with the hybrid cars available on the market today. And if the electricity comes from CO2-sustainable sources such as hydropower and windpower, this figure improves still further.

"Within the next decade, we will see more electric vehicles on our roads," says Fredrik Arp.

Vattenfall to develop technology for climate smart vehicles­www/­vf_com/­vf_com/­370103press/­558539press/­index.jsp?pmid=90268

Plug-In hybrids can reduce the transport sector’s dependence upon fossil fuels and its negative effect on the climate. Vattenfall is part of a Swedish industrial initiative to speed up the development of next generation’s hybrid vehicles, which may be charged with electricity directly from the socket and driven longer distances on electricity.

"Running more vehicles on electricity is one way of reducing transport sector emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Vattenfall is investing a billion Swedish Kronor in renewable electricity production and implementing a wide ranging of different measures to reduce climate changing emissions. As such we see it as a natural step to work with Volvo Cars and Saab Automobile to lay the foundations for a combined Swedish industry investment in Plug-In hybrids,” says Lars G Josefsson, Group CEO Vattenfall.

The car industry and energy sector are both convinced that Plug-In hybrid cars can be an effective means of reducing the carbon footprint of road traffic. Swedish electricity production has low carbon dioxide emissions and electricity is a powerful propellant.

Electric vehicles will not require any extensive infrastructure development, as Sweden’s power grid has sufficient capacity and an ordinary power point can be used to charge a Plug-In-hybrid. Sweden also has enough production capacity to meet the increased demand for electricity that would arise, in both the short and the long-term. For instance, Vattenfall’s Lillgrund wind farm with 48 wind turbines could supply enough electricity to power 147,000 vehicles that drive 15,000 kilometres a year using electricity 75 percent of the time.

“Using electricity to power personal transport vehicles is a very good example of how energy resources can be used in an effective way. At the same time, improving energy efficiency where fossil fuels are also replaced by carbon dioxide free power, is a major climate change initiative,” says Lars G Josefsson. One initial step in this investment in Plug-In hybrids is a project to build, demonstrate and evaluate vehicles and various charging alternatives, in order to determine their potential for reducing emissions and what the costs would be etc.

For Vattenfall, this project entails the development and testing of electricity infrastructure and various charging alternatives. Solutions should be user friendly and flexible enough to ensure charging a Plug-In hybrid is easier than filling your car at a petrol station today. The project partners are Vattenfall, Saab Automobile, Volvo Cars and ETC AB. Funding is also being provided by the Swedish Energy Agency.

CNET March 14, 2008
Volvo road tests ReCharge plug-in hybrid concept
Posted by Wayne Cunningham­8301-11128_3-9894305-54.html

Volvo showed off its ReCharge plug-in hybrid concept, based on the Volvo C30 model, at last year's Frankfurt auto show. We were skeptical when we saw it because even though it looked cool, Volvo only had a cutaway demonstration model to show off, and the company has no current hybrid cars among its model lineup. But Volvo reports today that it has a working concept on the road as part of a larger program to develop next generation powertrains. Volvo, in a consortium with Saab, the Swedish government, and energy company Vattenfall, announced a five-year plan to develop plug-in hybrids. The consortium's goal is to produce a fleet of 10 plug-in hybrid cars, using Sweden as a testing field. We are a little underwhelmed by this level of ambition, as there are already companies in the U.S. offering plug-in conversions of existing hybrids. As part of this plan, Volvo announced it will offer a hybrid variant of one or more existing models within five years. At this time, Volvo isn't saying what type of hybrid technology it will use, but owner Ford already offers a hybrid system similar to Toyota's on its Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. When the ReCharge concept was introduced, Volvo specified lithium-polymer batteries and in-wheel electric motors, with a small flex-fuel generator onboard as a range extender.


On March 8, we enthusiastically posted to CalCars-News, "Toyota's Back in Race To Be First Major Company on PHEVs" based on reports that Toyota's 99 gram/kilometer ultra-lightweight IQ car, to be mass-produced in 2009 in Europe, was a plug-in hybrid. Something didn't sound right about this, so we checked with Toyota's Group VP for Corporate Communications, Irv Miller, who confirmed that the iQ is super lightweight, aerodynamic, low C02 emissions -- not a hybrid, but has a gas or diesel option.

At the same time, we have not heard any contradictions from the Wall Street Journal story we linked to in that same posting at­calcars-news/­924.html where Toyota's President Katsuaki Watanab says the company will sell a plug-in hybrid with a lithium-ion battery by 2010 at the latest -- which means they could still get there before GM's Saturn Vue or Volt.

Finally, is a website focusing exclusively on the Volt, with frequent news reports and broad discussions. Dr. Lyle Dennis, its volunteer physician editor/publisher, has collected over 14,000 "pre-orders" for the Volt. After an indirect invitation from a GM engineer to give opinions about what kind of data the car should make available to drivers, 300 people gave their views in less than a day: “Give Your Direct Input to GM’s Volt Engineering Team on Vehicle Data Options!”­2008/­03/­16/­

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