In a little over a week, Volvo will be unveiling its latest plug-in electric vehicle to the world at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show.

But just like last week when we were given an exclusive pre-Geneva peek at the Nissan ESFlow electric sportscar concept in Frankfurt, Volvo invited us a few weeks ago to its headquarters in a wintry Gothenburg, Sweden to get a U.S. exclusive peek at its answer to a practical plug-in hybrid. 

The Basics

The 2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is a through-the-road plug-in electric hybrid station-wagon offering a conventional front-wheel drive system driven by a 2.4 liter Diesel engine and a six-speed automatic transmission and an all-electric rear-wheel drive system driven by a 52 kilowatt AC motor.  

All of the usual features you’d expect in a car are there, including air-conditioning, Volvo’s legendary safety systems and regenerative braking. 

Volvo V60 PHEV, Pre 2011 Geneva Preview

Volvo V60 PHEV, Pre 2011 Geneva Preview

Based on Volvo’s 2011 V60 station-wagon, it promises a combined fuel economy of 124 mpg in hybrid mode, an all-electric range of 30 miles, seating for five adults and nearly 11 cubic feet of luggage space.

The V60 PHEV will recharge using a Level 2 240V, 16A charger in less than 4 hours. 

Three Modes

The V60 PHEV has three main modes of operation: hybrid, all-electric, and power. The modes are selected by pressing the respective selection button on the car’s center console. A fourth mode, which can be entered at any time and is only used when the car’s traction control system needs it, enables an all wheel drive (AWD) system to give the V60 PHEV sure-footed manners in poor road conditions. 

Through-the-Road Hybrid

The V60 PHEV combines Volvo’s D5 5 cylinder common-rail Diesel engine producing 215 horsepower at the front wheels with an electric rear axle drive (ERAD) system completing the all-wheel drive setup. 

In default driving mode, selected at startup or by pressing the “hybrid” button on the dashboard, the car uses a mixture of power from the Diesel engine and the 12 kilowatt-hour (8 kilowatt-hours used) LGChem battery pack to provide driving force to all wheels. 

Importantly, this mode switches between the powertrains automatically to provide as energy efficient a drive as possible. 

To preserve power however, the driver can enter the car into a charge-preserving mode by pressing the “hybrid” button on the dashboard a second time to prevent the battery from being drained. 

In this mode, the car is capable of traveling up to 745 miles on a full charge and a full tank of fuel, smashing the 2011 Chevrolet Volt’s 350 miles in combined mode by a long way.

All Electric Mode

With the press of a switch, Volvo says the V60 PHEV enters a zero-emissions mode capable of providing up to 30 miles of all-electric driving, although top speed is limited to 62 mph. This means that for most freeway journeys the V60 PHEV will be burning Diesel, with the all-electric mode being reserved for lower speed driving. 

When the battery pack is depleted, or additional power is required through accelerator kickdown, the Diesel engine will kick in, supplying as much power as required. 

Volvo V60 PHEV, Pre 2011 Geneva Preview

Volvo V60 PHEV, Pre 2011 Geneva Preview

Power Mode

Volvo told us that it was very keen to retain the V60’s original sporty feel. To that end, the V60 PHEV contains a third operational mode, designed to give as much power as possible by using both Diesel engine and electric-drive system to give maximum power and torque. 

In this mode, the car can travel from 0-62 mph in a little under 7 seconds thanks to a total combined power of 285 horsepower spread between both axles. 

Cold Weather Ready

We don’t have to tell you that Volvo’s headquarters is based in a country with a cold winter climate, nor that Volvo enjoys a huge following in Northern European countries. 

With that in mind, Volvo’s V60 PHEV will include both pre-heating for the battery pack whilst charging and cabin pre-heating. During operation, the car can use either Diesel or Electric heaters to keep the cabin warm, automatically switching between them on the fly to provide constant comfort to passengers regardless of which mode is being used. 

In addition to pre-heating the battery pack, Volvo’s climate control system can head the ERAD system to optimal temperature as well as pre-heat the 2.4 liter Diesel Engine.

Volvo has also cold-weather tested its V60 PHEV in the Arctic circle, where it reported the car coped well with temperatures as cold as -40 degrees. It did warn however, that EV only operation in such temperatures were not ideal. 


Here are the potential game changers as we see them. Not only is the V60 PHEV the first station wagon plug-in hybrid we’ve seen, but it is also the most fuel efficient, offering up to 124 mpg in combined mode with tailpipe emissions well below that of other station wagons. 

Add to that Volvo’s design brief of a car that could tow, and you can see why we’re a little excited. 

Volvo claims the V60 PHEV was built to pull up to 2 tons and provide enough capacity to cope with the weight of five passengers and 11 cubic feet of luggage, without going over the designed gross vehicle weight. 

Will it Sell?

Volvo V60 PHEV, Pre 2011 Geneva Preview

Volvo V60 PHEV, Pre 2011 Geneva Preview

Undoubtedly, the V60 PHEV represents a new segment of the plug-in market not yet served by any other vehicle. While Volvo have not yet set a firm rollout plan it promises the car will be available from 2012 in Europe. 

But will U.S. buyers want a plug-in Diesel hybrid? Diesels have gained more acceptance of late, but we feel Diesels still have a long way to go before the V60 PHEV is received by the U.S. general public with open arms. 

We’ve not been allowed to drive it yet, nor have we seen it move, but if Volvo’s claims are true we’ve got to admit that it promises to be a very exciting car. 

If you can look beyond its fuel source however it’s a winner. A through-the-road range-extended plug-in hybrid that can tow and take your family on a road-trip as easily as you can commute to work using electric-only mode? Yes please. 

Volvo provided airfare, accommodation and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this exclusive, first person preview.