Volvo S60 KERS Hybrid Prototype: Brief First Drive Page 2

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Volvo S60 KERS Engineering Prototype

Volvo S60 KERS Engineering Prototype

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It’s fun, but is it efficient?

Addictive as it is in sport mode, is KERS really a green solution? Volvo says yes. 

The prototype -- designed in conjunction with KERS specialist Flybrid Systems -- can store somewhere in the region of 150 watt-hours of energy. That's about one-third the energy in the very smallest hybrid-electric battery packs.

While that doesn’t sound much -- about the equivalent of 6 seconds of full-throttle boost -- it makes a massive difference to performance figures. 

As Volvo detailed earlier this year, the current KERS system has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 25 percent, because it gives a turbocharged four-cylinder the same performance characteristics as a turbocharged six-cylinder engine. 

Less cylinders means less fuel and less pollution. 

Interestingly too, while great fun on the track, KERS is best suited to city driving, where lots of stop and go driving, combined with overall low speeds means the gasoline engine can turn off completely. 

Driven carefully, a fully charged KERS system of similar size to Volvo’s prototype could easily take you a few blocks in a busy city rush hour without burning a drop of gasoline.

For heavily congested cities with hour-long traffic jams like New York City however, KERS may not work so well. That’s because the system slowly loses energy over time, due to its mechanical nature, taking about 30 minutes to go from fully charged to empty even if no energy has been sent to the wheels. 

A promising future

Volvo S60 KERS Engineering Prototype

Volvo S60 KERS Engineering Prototype

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Despite some of its more obvious drawbacks however, KERS seems to have a rosy future. While Volvo is careful to not comment on KERS’ place in future models, its interest in flywheel technology goes beyond a single-year test program. 

In fact, Volvo’s full-scale test was part of a $3 million research project, jointly funded by the Swedish government, Volvo Cars, SKF, Flybrid and Volvo Trucks. 

So far, the results are promising: while Volvo won’t talk price, it assured us that the KERS system was far cheaper than a comparable hybrid-electric system. 

It’s lighter too: at a little over 132 pounds for the entire system and 13 pounds for the 7.87 inch diameter wheel, Volvo’s KERS system could easily be integrated into its existing production line using the same mounting system used for its all-wheel drive and V60 Plug-in Hybrid cars. 

Combined with Volvo’s all-new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) -- which Volvo says could shed up to 330 pounds per car compared to previous models -- and Volvo’s commitment to lowering its fleet-wide average CO2 output to under 0.32 pounds per mile, we think KERS will be making an appearance in a production car some time soon. 

But what do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below.

Volvo provided airfare, lodging and refreshments to High Gear Media to enable us to bring you this first-person report.


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