Volvo may be a newcomer to the hybrid segment, but the company has been actively working on hybrids for nearly 20 years.  Back in 1992, Volvo displayed their first hybrid concept car, but the vehicle never saw production.  Now Volvo has the intention of producing a plug-in hybrid with some high expectations and performance that is ahead of many competitors.

The vehicle is the Volvo V70 Plug-in Wagon and it will go on sale next year.  Journalists over at Popular Mechanics got a chance to take one for a brief drive and had high praise for the vehicle.

A run down of the V70 plug-in specs shows why this plug in is a stand out.  Volvo has chosen to equip the V70 with a diesel engine. The vehicle utilizes front-wheel drive with a 205-hp 2.4-liter diesel packing 331 lb-ft of torque under the hood. The V70 PHEV is designed to  operate in diesel-only mode most of the time. On-board is a 12-kilowatt-hour, EnerDel lithium-ion battery pack that powers a 70-hp permanent-magnet AC motor with 162 lb-ft of torque driving the rear wheels.  According to Volvo, the battery is capable of moving the 4433-pound vehicle on electric-only power for a maximum of 31 miles, enough to cover over 75 percent of daily European commuting. Top speed using the diesel engine is about 135 mph; but limited to 80 mph in electric mode. The vehicle can accelerate to 62 mph in 8.9 seconds under diesel power and 15 seconds under electric power.

As with all Volvo's, safety is a primary concern.  The battery is fully enclosed within a steel cage that should protect it from any impact.  The benefits of 4 wheel drive also provide additional traction which can enhance safety.

According to the review, the V70 plug-in starts up in virtual silence after undergoing a quick systems check.  The vehicle will slowly creep forward if placed in drive, a feature that Volvo installed so the electric drive performed as traditional vehicles do.  The creep feature doesn't waste electricity as it is only used when the driver releases his foot from the brake pedal.

Popular Mechanic's Andrew English referred to the Volvo's driving characteristics as follows, "The whirring estate fair races away from the standstill, a characteristic of electric-powered cars, which provide maximum torque at zero motor revolutions. The rear-mounted motor is very quiet and provides easy 50-mph cruising and wafting acceleration that is perfect for commuting, if not the interstate dash, where the diesel engine will start and can occasionally be boosted with the electric drive for high-power overtaking moments. The car feels heavy, but not impossibly so. Trouble is, that weight takes its toll and after just three gentle laps of the test track we had burned 2 kwh of the batteries' charge, which gives an effective range of just 18 miles. Fewer hills and much gentler driving would extend this, but it's still obvious that the V70's diesel engine is going to be running for a fair amount of time and then you are just dragging around 551-pounds of battery pack, control electronics, inverter and motor."

The V70 plug-in is a sound attempt by the company to break into the electric vehicle market.  It's 31 mile electric range coupled with an efficient diesel engine will give it high EPA ratings and appeal throughout Europe.

Pricing is not set, but Volvo hopes that the V70 will result in high sales and help drive down costs of lithium-ion batteries for future generations of electric vehicles and that European cities will restrict combustion engines in congested cities by burdening them with heavy tolls.  This would make the V70 desirable if it's 31 mile electric range would eliminate it from being subject to tolls.  Volvo is hoping that a lot of things fall into place, but right now the outlook for the V70 plug-in is uncertain.

Source:  Popular Mechanics