Volvo Offers a Personal Solution to Sustainable Mobility
By Mike Hanlon
October 11, 2004
Spurred by the growing need to tackle congestion and pollution issues, Volvo Car Corporation has developed a radically new approach to sustainable mobility with the striking 3CC concept. The futuristic Volvo 3CC personal transportation vehicle was unveiled today at the Shanghai Michelin Challenge Bibendum event.
The Volvo 3CC is a sleek, aerodynamic car designed to carry up to three adults, or two adults and two children, utilizing a unique two-plus-one seating arrangement which provides comfort and space comparable to a larger car.
The Volvo 3CC competing in Shanghai is driven by an electric powertrain, capable of propelling the vehicle up to 300 kilometres (180 miles). Its low centre-of-gravity, light weight and double wishbone suspension contribute to sportcar-like handling.
"We see the Volvo 3CC as a functional demonstrator from which clean, safe and efficient vehicles can be derived in the future," says Volvo Car Corporation spokesman Dan Werbin, Director Volvo Cars North America.
"It is clear that as densely populated nations like China become seriously mobile, we must address congestion and pollution if we want to offer future generations the mobility and freedom enjoyed today."
The Volvo 3CC is a further step towards a new mobility paradigm envisaged by Volvo Car Corporation, and epitomized by the recently revealed Volvo Tandem - a narrow, energy efficient, two-seater `personal mobility vehicle´ using 50 percent less space than a current car without compromising Volvo's traditional safety standards.
Both the Volvo 3CC and Tandem concepts were generated from the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC) think-tank in California.
VMCC believes the global market is changing from a one-car-fits-all notion to owning different cars for different needs. "Moving to a 'family' matrix of cars could change the way the world thinks about auto ownership the same way the Sony Walkman did for the audio industry," says Werbin.
Volvo has built its new mobility ideas on unique consumer and societal research carried out by VMCC in the US, Europe and Asia aimed at profiling future customer demands, expectations and latent needs. The research indicates the world is becoming more open to new transportation concepts on issues such as the environment, but solutions must be functional, 'cool', and smart.
The Volvo Car Corporation approach wins support from a four-year study on future mobility by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The WBCSD says that to sustain the benefits of mobility, societies must seek new directions, including limiting greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating traffic congestion, ensuring best possible safety and preserving and improving existing mobility options.
Volvo Car Corporation believes it is moving in that direction with cars like the Volvo 3CC and Tandem - cars which are fuel-efficient with lower emissions. Cars that also use less space, are well proportioned and well styled, deliver excellent driving performance, and incorporate Volvo's traditional safety and quality.
The Volvo 3CC is entered in the 6th Michelin Challenge Bibendum event because the car challenges the auto industry by showing how Volvo Car is delivering technical advances to preserve the environment and sustain mobility.
Bringing together automakers, policy makers, and the media to explore solutions to the threat posed by emissions and congestion, the Michelin Challenge Bibendum is the only event of its kind comparing vehicles powered by conventional and alternative energy and propulsion systems.
"Volvo Car ranks environmental care as a high corporate priority in equal importance to safety and quality," says Niklas Gustavsson, Environmental Manager Volvo Car Corporation Governmental Affairs. "Our key role is to help society and individuals to move freely without sacrificing human or ecological factors. The Volvo 3CC, and the thinking behind it, has the potential to become a catalyst for change in the way people view car use."
Volvo 3CC prototype - A Study in Sustainable Mobility
The Volvo 3CC's sleek body tapers rearward. Wider at the front, the designed makes a dynamic statement that is unmistakably Volvo and intentionally fresh. Under the bonnet is an electric powertrain that quietly propels the Volvo 3CC to a governed top speed of more than 135km/h and delivers zero-to-100km/h acceleration in approximately 10 seconds.
Just 3899mm long, 1624mm wide and 1321mm high, the Volvo 3CC has dimensions similar to a classic two-seater sports car - but that is where similarities end. For the sporty vehicle packs a surprise: a unique two-plus-one seating configuration. The layout consists of seating for two adults in the front and a unique rear seat solution for an additional adult or two children.
The unique three-seat configuration provides unprecedented rear seat passenger comfort and all-around visibility for all passengers.
"With the Volvo 3CC, Volvo Cars is pioneering a new way of looking at mobility so generations in future can enjoy the same freedoms the car has given my generation. We believe it is necessary to show new ways to reduce pollution and congestion," says Lars Erik Lundin, Vice President & General Manager of the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC).
The Volvo 3CC is the brainchild of the designers, engineers and business people at the VMCC think-tank in California. Their task was to create a `future-proof concept´ that would enhance sustainable mobility. The 3CC is a car that is fuel-efficient, versatile, comfortable and safe, as well as exciting to drive and visually appealing.
"We want to connect in a positive way with consumers so that they say 'I want to be seen in this car'," Lundin explains. "We want to add emotional value to people's lives by offering an environmentally compatible car that appeals to all the senses, and a car which people want to drive."
Although its exterior is intentionally compact, the Volvo 3CC has been designed to feel spacious through organic lines and light colours. Inside, the fixed eye plane ergonomics and low profile A-pillar create a sense of openness aided by three transparent panels in the roof. The doors are hinged to swing upwards, and a floating dash panel slides forward to ease ingress and egress. A unique sliding seat system also assists ingress and egress to the rear seat.
The pedals adjust for individual requirements.
Designing the 3CC to look good was a priority. However, Volvo also wanted to deliver on overall sustainable mobility goals by providing excellent efficiency. Volvo has achieved this objective through good aerodynamics on a compact footprint, lightweight body materials, and an electric powertrain.
Volvo opted to give the Volvo 3CC a high strength steel space frame and composite sandwich floor panels for safety and lightweight. The outer body is a bonded single piece carbon fibre shell. The resulting chassis rigidity and its innovative suspension also give the car great handling characteristics.
"The double floor used to house the electric energy storage makes the concept future-proof in that the layout can be adapted for the most appropriate powertrain in the future, whether it be petrol, diesel, biogas or hybrid electric," explains Ichiro Sugioka, Science Officer at VMCC in California. "In Shanghai, we are demonstrating the electric powertrain, one of the most challenging to package into a vehicle, to highlight its potential where there is abundance of renewable energy that can be converted to electricity."
Meticulous wind tunnel tests resulted in an enhanced aerodynamic efficiency that is 30 percent better than the new S40 sedan.
RANGE & POWERTRAIN
With a potential driving range of more than 300 kilometres (180 miles) under certain driving conditions, the torque-to-weight ratio is roughly comparable to the powerful turbocharged S40 T5 model, but the electric powertrain delivers its Newton-metre payload from 0 - 3500rpm.
In typical driving conditions, about 20 percent of the energy can be recovered by regenerative braking.
This performance is achieved using a drivetrain specifically designed for the Volvo 3CC, although it too is a prototype. The electric power comes from lithium-ion cells identical to those used in modern laptop computers that are packaged in the thin sandwich floor.
Front-wheel driven, the Volvo 3CC at Shanghai has double wishbone suspension front and rear. The front suspension includes horizontally mounted adjustable coilover dampers that give a low bonnet line. The rear suspension includes vertically mounted adjustable coilover dampers. Due to the vehicle's lightweight and the power of the regenerative electric braking, unassisted brakes provide good stopping power. The 3CC uses Michelin Pilot Sport 215/45 ZR18 tyres that are normally found on supercars for utmost performance.
The interior of the Volvo 3CC offers dynamic ergonomic positioning for driver and front passenger. Unique solutions include replacing instrument panel toggles with proximity sensors that are activated by a finger from within 5mm to adjust lights, climate, and audio system.
"Rather than refining existing cars and technologies for new markets, Volvo has listened, questioned and speculated about the future and developed this all new concept," says Lex Kerssemakers, Senior Vice President of Brand, Product & Business Strategy. "We think the Volvo 3CC opens a door into that future and we will develop the concept further."