The stepping stone to a future of battery-powered cars is a vehicle that combines internal combustion with electricity. Here’s a handy guide to hybrid cars, including the impressive plug-in versions offered by Volvo Cars.
What is a hybrid car?
Hybrid cars combine two forms of propulsion – using both an internal combustion engine and at least one electric motor. A conventional vehicle is powered only by a petrol or diesel combustion motor.
The combination is designed primarily to lower fuel consumption, by either reducing an engine’s workload or occasionally taking it out of the equation to rely solely on battery power.
Hybrid cars were a technological novelty when they first appeared in the late 1990s, though in recent years have become increasingly widespread as manufacturers seek to build cars capable of meeting ever-stricter emissions regulations.
Hybrid systems vary in their set-up, with essentially three main types available. A ‘mild hybrid’ employs an electric motor that assists the engine but never powers the vehicle’s wheels alone.
The ‘series parallel hybrid’ or ‘full hybrid’ – which has been the most popular type of hybrid car for the past two decades – provides partial electric-only range, after which it works in tandem with a conventional combustion engine. The battery feeding the electric motor is typically recharged by the car – via kinetic energy stored from regenerative braking and from excess engine power.
Series parallel hybrids are particularly effective in the low-speed, stop-start scenarios of urban traffic, and accelerative performance.
The fastest-growing type is the ‘plug-in hybrid’, whereby the vehicle is capable of being charged automatically on the move – as with a series parallel hybrid – and charged manually, by plugging the vehicle into a power outlet or at a public recharging station or overnight in the garage, for example.
Volvo hybrid cars
Volvo has developed a plug-in hybrid system that delivers the best of both worlds: amazing fuel efficiency and scintillating performance.
Our hybrid cars implement the T8 Twin Engine that combines a turbocharged/supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor. This technology allows us to create the hybrid luxury car. The driver can access three modes to vary the interaction of the twin technologies, depending on whether the priority is efficiency (Pure mode), performance (Power), or a mixture of the two (default Hybrid mode).
In Hybrid mode, the system can alternate between independent use of the electric motor at the rear wheels and the petrol engine operating the front wheels – or use them in tandem for all-wheel drive, to achieve the best balance of performance and efficiency.
Pure mode operates at speeds up to 125km/h and utilises the electric motor as much as possible. According to official fuel figures, both the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine and Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine hybrid SUVs use just 2.1 litres of fuel per 100km*, and emit only 49 grams of CO2 per kilometre*.
And Power gives the XC90 T8 and XC60 T8 the ability to reach 100km/h from a standing start in just 5.6 and 5.3 seconds, respectively, via permanent tandem operation of the petrol engine and electric motor for optimum all-wheel-drive performance. In both hybrid SUVs, the T8 produces hugely impressive total outputs of 300kW and 640Nm.
In the near future, the T8 will be joined by a T5 Twin Engine powertrain that will be employed on a new range of compact Volvo models. T5 will combine a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine with an electric motor.*Results achieved in test conditions. Actual results may vary depending on driving conditions/style, vehicle condition and options/accessories fitted. Fuel consumption data provided for comparison purposes only. Source: ADR81/02 combined.
Quick guide to Volvo’s T8 Twin Engine
T8 Twin Engine
- 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged/supercharged petrol engine + electric motor
- 235kW + 65kW
- 400Nm + 240Nm
- 0-100km/h: 5.6 seconds