Volvo is investigating the use of fuel cells as a means of generating power in a range-extended electric vehicle. Backed by research support from the Swedish Energy Agency, Volvo is hoping to have two prototype vehicles based on the C30 DRIVe electric vehicle in testing by 2012.
In the first phase, a preliminary study is being conducted into what is known as a range-extended electric vehicle, which consists of a fuel cell with a reformer. The task of the reformer is to break down a liquid fuel, in this case gasoline, and create hydrogen gas. In the fuel cell, this hydrogen gas is converted into electrical energy, which is used to power the car's electric motor--similar in fashion to what the internal combustion engine does in the Chevrolet Volt.
The technology generates electricity completely without any emissions of carbon oxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and particles. Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are also significantly reduced compared with a conventional vehicle. The end products are electricity, water and a small amount of carbon dioxide.
Volvo predicts that driving range can increase to 155 miles using a combination of a battery and the fuel cell. In the next phase, scheduled to start in 2012, Volvo will build its two prototype vehicles and start trials.