Volvo Multi-Fuel high performance prototype that runs on five different fuels


June 14, 2006

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June 15, 2006 The Michelin Challenge Binendum finished in Paris on the weekend, completing yet another showcase of the world’s most interesting clean technologies and energies for motorized vehicles. Each Bibendum sees a who’s who of the world’s automotive manufacturers put their latest concept vehicles on the park and this year some concept vehicles were actually rolled out for the event. One that really caught our attention was the Volvo Multi-Fuel prototype, which is optimised for running on five different fuel types; hythane (10% hydrogen and 90% methane), biomethane, natural gas, bioethanol E85 and petrol. The idea, according to Volvo, is to make use of the fuels that are produced locally. This means that less fuel needs to be transported between continents, and you can fill up the car on the fuel that is available wherever you are.

The Volvo Multi-Fuel is a five-cylinder, 2.0-litre prototype car (200 bhp) that runs on five different fuels; hythane (10% hydrogen and 90% methane), biomethane, natural gas (CNG), bioethanol E85 (85% bioethanol and 15% petrol) and petrol.

In the class for prototype cars, the Volvo Multi-Fuel won four gold medals for its clean emissions and low noise, and for the excellent results from the acceleration test from 0–100 km/h, and the braking test. Other prizes were won in the categories fuel efficiency, slalom, and carbon dioxide emissions.

“The prizes in the Challenge Bibendum 2006 show that we have succeeded in combining an environmentally adapted engine with high performance,” says Mats Morén, project manager for Volvo Car Corporation’s Multi-Fuel project.

The Multi-Fuel is exceptionally clean - one of its benefits is that combustion of pure renewable fuels like hydrogen, biomethane and bioethanol gives negligible net contribution of fossil carbon dioxide.

Volvo Car Corporation believes that the road to the future is not one but many roads. No renewable fuel type can alone replace the fossil fuels of today. Since local conditions vary, different markets need engines for different alternative fuels, together with cleaner conventional ones. With this in mind, Volvo Car Corporation has developed the Multi-Fuel, a prototype car that can be powered by five different fuel types, thus be driven on the energy source at hand – anywhere in the world.

The Multi-Fuel vehicle contains one large and two smaller tanks of totally 98 litres for gaseous fuels (hythane, biomethane and CNG), and one 29-litre tank for liquid fuels (bioethanol E85 and petrol).

The small gaseous fuel tanks are made of steel, whereas the large tank has a durable, gas tight aluminium liner, reinforced with high performance carbon fibre composite and an exterior layer of hardened fibre-glass composite, says Morén.

The fuel tanks are fitted neatly under the luggage compartment floor, which means that full loading capacity is preserved. Two fuel fillers are used to fill up all five fuel types, one for gaseous and one for liquid fuels. The engine automatically adjusts itself to the right blend of gaseous or liquid fuels. To switch between fuel types, the driver simply presses a button.

The whole Multi-Fuel vehicle – the engine, the tanks, the transmission and the fuel system – is optimised for the five different fuels. It can be started directly on gas, which is unique for this system. The Multi-Fuel has a motor effect of 200 bhp and accelerates quickly up to speed, 0–100 km/h in 8.7 seconds. This makes the car more responsive and smooth to drive. The Multi-Fuel is turbo charged to achieve high performance on any of the five different fuel types, says Morén. That makes it great fun to drive and we are very proud of its performance.

The Multi-Fuel is remarkably clean and meets the emission standards for Euro 4 and the proposed levels for Euro 5. An alternative catalyst system has also been developed to meet the tough demands on extremely low tailpipe emissions for PZEV/SULEV on the US market. The vehicle has two catalysts, one close coupled to the engine that lowers initial start emissions, and one under the floor for reduced high-speed emissions. The double catalysts and advanced engine control system lead to very low emissions. High-temperature materials in the exhaust manifold and turbo allow extremely high exhaust gas temperatures of up to 1050 °C. This enables the car to run cleaner, accelerate quicker and operate smoother at higher speed.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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