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Looking For Better Fuel Economy, Volvo Downsizes To Four Cylinder Engines


2011 Volvo S80

2011 Volvo S80

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Over the next ten years, Swedish automaker Volvo will abandon all five- and six-cylinder engines in favor of more fuel-efficient three- and four-cylinder engines. The move will boost fuel economy in individual models as much as 35 percent, which is critical for Volvo to meet upcoming fuel economy and emission standards in Europe and America.

Volvo is calling its new engine family VEA, or Volvo Environmental Architecture. The engine lineup will consist of 1.5-liter, direct-injection three-cylinders fueled by both gas and diesel, as well as 2.0-liter, direct-injection four-cylinders in gas and diesel variants.

Volvo insists that performance will improve, thanks to the advanced technology and lighter weight of the new engines. Volvo R&D head Peter Mertens told Automotive News Europe (subscription required), “the new engine range will enable us to be on par or even beat our toughest competitors in... driving dynamics and fuel economy.”

Furthering Volvo’s less-is-more philosophy is a move to scalable platform architecture (SPA), which will allow 80 percent of future Volvo models to be built on the same assembly line. The first SPA model is expected to be a replacement for the current S80 sedan, due in 2014.

Volvo is also experimenting with flywheel-drive hybrid variants to boost fuel economy. The systems, pioneered in Formula 1 racing, are called Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, or KERS.

KERS works by capturing brake energy via a flywheel with a maximum speed of 60,000 RPM. When released, the stored energy can be used to boost acceleration or reduce fuel consumption at cruising speed.
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