Volvo tests new technology to cut fuel consumption 20%

Volvo says it is testing new flywheel technology that it says will not only make a four-cylinder engine feel like a six-cylinder, but will also reduce fuel consumption by 20%.

This autumn, the company says it will be one of the world's first car makers to test the potential of flywheel technology on public roads. It has received a grant of 6.57 million Swedish kronor (£5.6 million) from the Swedish Energy Agency for technology to recover kinetic energy from braking in a joint project with Volvo Powertrain and SKF.

"Our aim is to develop a complete system for kinetic energy recovery,” says Derek Crabb, Vice President VCC Powertrain Engineering. “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 percent. What is more, it gives the driver an extra horsepower boost, giving a four-cylinder engine acceleration like a six-cylinder unit.”

The new system, known as Flywheel KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), is fitted to the rear axle. Braking energy causes the flywheel to spin at up to 60,000 revs per minute. When the car starts moving off again, the flywheel's rotation is transferred to the rear wheels through a specially designed transmission.

The combustion engine that drives the front wheels is switched off as soon as the braking begins. The energy in the flywheel can be used to accelerate the vehicle when it is time to move off once again, or to power the vehicle once it reaches cruising speed.

"The flywheel's stored energy is sufficient to power the car for short periods. However, this has a major impact on fuel consumption,” Derek Crabb explains. “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.”
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