Interview with Caroline Kjellin, Powertrain Engineer-in-Chief from Volvo.
Why the three-cylinder gas engine?
It's proven itself to be very efficient and powerful, while emitting very few pollutants into the air. It works well with the electric motor and the dual-clutch transmission, which makes for a highly-efficient and eco-friendly drivetrain.
You rather simplified the connection between the electric motor and dual-clutch transmission?
Yes. The electric motor is connected to one of the two transmission input shafts, behind both clutches that are used to engage the gas engine. This allowed us to use only two clutches, while at the same time, we can still assure you that the car will be able to travel with either electric or a combined, hybrid drivetrain, wherein both engines can use different gears. In addition, the electric motor can also work as a generator—even when the car is propelled by the gas engine.
Where are the batteries?
The battery is located in the tunnel of the car, same as in the bigger models with the T8 plug-in hybrid drivetrain. By doing, so we optimized the car's safety, as well its weight distribution, without fear of reducing the volume in the passenger's cabin.
What about the electric range?
The Li-ion battery, with a capacity of 9.7 kWh, will generate enough power for up to 50 km range on electricity alone (according the the NEDC standard).
Is the future of Volvo hybrids strictly tied to gas engines?
We did offer a diesel hybrid in the past, but right now we want to focus exclusively on gas-powered engines with three and four cylinders. Having said that, going back to diesel hasn't been ruled out, if that turns out to be more effective.
Currently, Volvo is offering a plug-in hybrid and has announced a fully-electric drivetrain for 2019. What about a classic hybrid?
No, that's not in our agenda. The goal of selling a minimum of a million electric or hybrid cars by 2025 is likewise focused solely on plug-in hybrids and fully-electric vehicles. Classic hybrid drivetrains are not part of the picture.
Why not a regular hybrid?
Because we believe that the plug-in hybrid is the way to go. The batteries are easy to charge via household socket-outlets, but at the same time the network of electric charging stations available to those who don't have the capacity to charge their batteries domestically has grown to be very strong. On the other hand, longer distances are surmountable with a gas engine, meaning that a driver of a plug-in hybrid is no worse off than a driver behind the classic gas or diesel-run wheels. And neither is nature, which actually prefers the former over latter, due to lower emissions.
By mounting the battery in the tunnel of the car, Volvo optimized the car's safety, as well its mass distribution. Read more about it here.