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Volvo touts mechanical KERS for future road cars (but fails to mention partners Flybrid & Torotrak)

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June 1, 2011

The official Volvo illustration of the KERS system does not reference Torotrak or Flybrid in any way

The official Volvo illustration of the KERS system does not reference Torotrak or Flybrid in any way

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Volvo indulged in some odd behaviour overnight when it made a curious omission from a publicity release promoting the Kinetic Energy Recovery System development for which it has just received a US$1,000,000 grant from the Swedish Energy Agency.

Volvo named its partners in the KERS project being Volvo Powertrain and SKF, but somehow managed to leave out the fact that the core technologies described in the press release and portrayed in the diagrams it released alongside the press release were Torotrak's variable drive technology and Flybrid Systems (UK) flywheel KERS technology originally developed for Honda F1 and set to debut in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race next week.

Torotrak immediately issued its own press release setting the record straight, but it's hard to see any motive for Volvo's omission other than to mislead the public as to its progress and expertise in the field.

The Volvo press release describes how the technology has the potential for reducing fuel consumption by 20%, giving four cylinder engines the acceleration of a six cylinder unit.

Indeed, looking through the press release, it's obvious that a lot of trouble has been taken to omit the names Torotrak and Flybrid. For instance, when describing the lightweight flywheel being used in the new KERS, the press release notes "Flywheel propulsion assistance was tested in a Volvo 240 back in the 1980s, and flywheels made of steel have been evaluated by various manufacturers in recent times. ... The flywheel that Volvo Car Corporation will use in its test car is made of carbon fibre."

Regardless of whether Volvo publicly wishes to acknowledge where the technology it is testing comes from, it seems certain that Volvo intends to pursue mechanical KERS in its road cars.

"If the tests and technical development go as planned, we expect cars with flywheel technology to reach the showrooms within a few years," said Derek Crabb, Vice President VCC Powertrain Engineering.

"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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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, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, 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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9 Comments

The Volvo omission is a direct slap in the face to the executives at Flybrid and Torotrak. They may be looking to buy those companies and don\'t want to hype them.

CleverName

Internal Combustion Engines batteling back at Hybrid drive generation,. At least, it\'s mechanical.

Søren Algreen-ussing

excellent reporting..

Fabrizio Pilato

The rotation of the flywheel is on the wrong axis for stability. Take a bicycle wheel and spin it. Then try to turn it to the left or right. Precession causes it become unstable. So the best axis of spin for a flywheel would be the spinning top axis. That way, left and right turns are more stable, and the vehicle is less apt to turn over. Check out the Indy 500, their engines are on the spinning top axis. So was the Corvair with its \'pancake engine\' in the back.

Darin Selby

Makes you wonder what\'s behind the omissions, Volvo? or its Chinese owners.

Luddite

Fabrizio the corvair cooling fan was mounted with a vertical axis but the more massive and influential crankshaft was horizontal and in line with the car. I don\'t know what Indy cars you refer to but the only ones I know have the engine crank in line with the car. Your analogy would make all transverse engined cars in production today unstable since their rotating engine mass is not on a vertical mounted axis. The important thing to consider is flywheel mass, rotation speed and flywheel size relevant to vehicle size.

dgate

Ford sold Volvo to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2010, so who knows where the technology comes from anymore?

Anthony N Wood

Wonderful technology that deserves accolades and high praise. The first thing that came to my mind is that Volvo\'s Chinese owners had something to do with the ommissions. The solution to our energy problems will come from many small incremental improvements like this flywheel technology. Energy independence is crucial to our national security.

Dana King

Elegant and Simple. Free RWD torque when you need it most. Don\'t care where from... just Bring it.

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