This autumn, Volvo will be testing a new flywheel technology on the road. The new light, cost efficient and eco-efficient technology will make a four cylinder engine feel like a six cylinder as well as reducing fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent.
Volvo received a 6.57 million Swedish kronor grant from the Swedish Energy Agency for developing technology for kinetic recovery of braking energy.
Vice President VCC Powertrain Engineering, Derek Crabb said: "Our aim is to develop a complete system for kinetic energy recovery. Tests in a Volvo car will get under way in the second half of 2011. This technology has the potential for reducing fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent. What is more, it gives the driver an extra horsepower boost, giving a four-cylinder engine acceleration like a six-cylinder unit."
The Flywheel KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) is fitted to the rear axle. Braking energy Will cause the flywheel to spin at up to 60,000 revs per minute and when the car starts moving off again, the flywheel's rotation is then transferred to the rear wheels thanks to a specially designed transmission.
When braking occurs, the combustion engine which drives the front wheels is switched off and the flywheel's energy can be harnessed to accelerate the vehicle or power the vehicle at cruising speeds.
"The flywheel's stored energy is sufficient to power the car for short periods. However, this has a major impact on fuel consumption. Our calculations indicate that the combustion engine will be able to be turned off about half the time when driving according to the official New European Driving Cycle," explains Derek Crabb.
The system will be most efficient in situations where stops and starts are common, such as urban driving. This is because the flywheel relies on the vehicle braking to store energy.
The flywheel can give the car an 80 horsepower boost when can cut 0-62 acceleration figures significantly when combined with the combustion engine's full capacity.
Vehicle manufacturers have tested flywheels made of steel, but due to their large and heavy nature they have a limited rotational capacity. Instead, Volvo will be testing a flywheel made of carbon fibre, which weighs about six kilograms and has a diameter of 20 centimetres. To minimise frictional losses, the flywheel will spin in a vacuum.
"We are not the first manufacturer to test flywheel technology. But nobody else has applied it to the rear axle of a car fitted with a combustion engine driving the front wheels. If the tests and technical development go as planned, we expect cars with flywheel technology to reach the showrooms within a few years," says Derek Crabb. He concludes: "The flywheel technology is relatively cheap. It can be used in a much larger volume of our cars than top-of-the-line technology such as the plug-in hybrid. This means that it has potential to play a major role in our CO2-cutting DRIVe Towards Zero strategy."
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