By Philippe Crowe
Volvo is expanding production to be able to build up to 6,000 units of its V60 Plug-in Hybrid. If you recall, this efficient diesel-electric car is capable of 31 miles all-electric range at speeds up to 74 mph.
As Volvo stated it, after the initial batch of 1,000 model year 2013 cars, the assembly line will increase to 4,000-6,000 cars as of model year 2014.
The assembly of the V60 Plug-in Hybrid, which was the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid, is integrated on the same line as the company’s other models at the Torslanda plant in Gothenburg.
The extended-range, multi-mode hybrid vehicle has 4WD, towing capability, and respectable seating and cargo space. Could GM benefit from such a car in its lineup?
Volvo had previously stated the production for the 2014 model would be at 5,000 units. It looks like the success of the first year of production has Volvo optimistic about the model’s sales success.
Volvo says it considers this is a remarkable achievement considering that the sophisticated plug-in hybrid technology includes two complete drive trains and a powerful battery.
“We are first in the industry to integrate a plug-in hybrid in an established production flow together with other car models,” says Peter Mertens, senior vice president Research and Development at Volvo Car Corporation. “The integration in the standard production flow gives the plug-in hybrid buyer the possibility to choose in principle all options available for the standard V60.”
Integrating the plug-in hybrid to the regular production process has led to parts of the final assembly line being rebuilt and modified. The adaptation makes it possible to smoothly integrate the assembly of over 300 more parts that are included in the plug-in hybrid compared to an equivalent V60.
The following examples give an idea of the challenges in integrating the production flow:
• The electric motor along with its drive shafts is fitted on the same station as the final drive on the standard four-wheel drive models
• The cooling system and the high voltage cables are assembled on the Pallet, which is used to assemble the car’s drive train and chassis parts
• The battery pack is lifted in through the car’s tailgate short side forward. It is then spun a quarter of a turn in the passenger compartment – a maneuver that takes 60 seconds and is carried out with less than 20 millimeters (0.787 inches) to spare
“The 11.2-kwh lithium-type battery is the single most complex system in the car. The precision maneuver to get it in place is an excellent example of the state-of-the-art assembly process,” says Peter Mertens.
Volvo says it considers the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid the synthesis of close cooperation between Volvo Car Corporation and Swedish electricity supplier Vattenfall.
The two companies have financed the development project jointly.
“The V60 Plug-in Hybrid is a unique car, a historic step, not only for Volvo Car Corporation but for the entire car industry. The first year’s 1,000-car batch was sold out even before the car reached the showrooms and the order books for next year’s cars are already filling up,” concludes Peter Mertens.
The first 1,000 units of the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid, of 2013 model year, were only available in a “Pure Limited” edition with Electric Silver paint. The diesel-electric car is also distinguished by aero-designed 17-inch wheels, integrated exhaust tailpipes and a number of bodywork features highlighted in glossy black.
According to Volvo, fuel consumption is just 1.8 l/100 km (130 mpg) in hybrid mode.
As Volvo explains, three pushbuttons give the car three entirely different temperaments:
• In Pure mode the car is powered solely by its electric motor as much as possible. If the battery pack has been recharged with electricity from renewable sources, its range is up to 31 miles [capable of speeds up to 74 mph] and its carbon dioxide emissions are zero. The electric range varies with terrain, climate and driving style.
• Hybrid is the standard setting whenever the car is started. The diesel engine and electric motor cooperate to ensure optimal balance between driving pleasure and environmental footprint. CO2 emission (NEDC, mixed driving cycle for certification) is 49g/km [65 percent lower than a V60 with the same engine]. Fuel consumption on this same [optimistic] drive cycle is 1.9l/100km [124 mpg]. The car has a total range of up to 620 miles.
• In Power mode the technology is optimized to give the car the maximum possible power. The diesel engine and electric motor have a total power output of 215+70  horsepower and maximum torque of 325+148  pound-feet. The electric motor’s lightning-quick torque delivery contributes to the car’s acceleration from 0 to 62 mph in 6.1 seconds.
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