Mike Stevens | Nov 1, 2010

Volvo is teaming up with energy company Powercell Sweden to develop a fuel cell that can extend the operation range of an electric vehicle. According to new Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby, the company's EV technology will "set a new standard in the industry."

The Swedish carmaker is developing two prototypes based on the upcoming 2011 Volvo C30 DRIVe electric vehicle, with real-world testing set to begin in 2012.

"This is an exciting expansion of our focus on electrification. Battery cost and size means that all-electric cars still have a relatively limited operating range," Mr Jacoby said.

"Fuel cells may be one way of extending the distance these cars can cover before they need to be recharged. What is more, the project gives us increased knowledge about fuel cells and hydrogen gas," says Volvo Cars President and CEO Stefan Jacoby.

The first phase of testing will see the range-extending opportunities investigated, with a focus on hydrogen gas created through the breakdown of petrol. The fuel cell will convert the hydrogen gas into electric energy, powering the car's electric motor.

Due to the highly efficient process, emissions of carbon dioxide are significantly reduced compared with a conventional vehicle (although Volvo has not offered precise figures). The end products are electricity, water and a 'small amount' of carbon dioxide.

Volvo says its fuel cell may increase the C30 DRIVe's driving range by a further 250km.

The 'regular' C30 DRIVe electric vehicle, due to go into production in 2011, stores its power in a 24kWh lithium-ion battery mounted in the centre tunnel and (former) fuel tank area, giving it a driving range of up to 150km on a single charge.

Recharging the battery takes eight hours using a 230v household outlet. Performance promises to be quite high. Volvo claims a 0-100km/h sprint time in just under 11 seconds and a top speed around 130km/h.

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