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Volvo Goes Electric

Volvo Car plans to launch a plug-in hybrid and an all-electric car within two years.
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Volvo Car plans to launch a plug-in hybrid and an all-electric car within two years. Other future Volvo car platforms also will be engineered to accommodate electric drive systems.

Lennart Stegland, president of Volvo's special vehicles division, detailed the plans at the dedication of EnerDel Inc.'s new lithium-ion battery plant that is being constructed near Indianapolis. Volvo showed its concept C30 EV, which is fitted with an EnerDel battery pack, at the supplier's press conference.

Stegland says modifications on future platforms will add room for the large lithium-ion battery packs and incorporate new crash energy load paths and additional cross-members that will better protect the batteries in collisions.

Volvo's first foray into electric drive systems will be for niche models. The company plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid in Europe this year. Limited production of the all-electric car is expected to start in 2012. The cars will be built in Sweden initially for European markets.

Volvo's new emphasis on electric drive it still doesn't offer a traditional hybrid is primarily being driven by more stringent carbon dioxide emission standards in Europe that will require automakers to average 95 g/km by 2020, which is equivalent to about 65 mpg with petroleum-based fuel.

The C30 concept is powered by a 111-hp electric motor and has an anticipated driving range of at least 100 miles. Fully recharging the car's lithium-ion battery takes about eight hours. The electric motor is located under the hood, and the batteries are installed in the propshaft tunnel in place of the fuel tank.

Volvo also is looking closely at the safety aspects of electric drive. The company notes that incorporating stability control systems into a regenerative braking system is problematic, for example. It says one reason EnerDel won the battery contract is because it tailored battery chemistry to best fit the application.

EnerDel's new facilities will make the basic cells, assemble them into battery packs and add the control electronics.

Volvo will be one of the first customers of EnerDel's new battery plant. The company was launched six years ago as a joint venture between Indianapolis-based Ener1 Inc. and Delphi Corp. Ener1 bought out Delphi in 2008. The new plant will make the battery cells, assemble them into packs and add control electronics.

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