Peugeot's 3008 HYbrid4 may have beaten it to the diesel-electric punch by just a couple of months, but Volvo's V60 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a revolution in its own right. And now it's on sale in Europe.
Power for the special new V60 is provided by a pairing of Volvo's 160kW D5 2.4 litre diesel engine with a 52kW electric motor, the former driving the front wheels and the latter turning the rear wheels.
Energy for the electric motor is drawn from a 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack, a system more common to dedicated electric vehicles rather than hybrids, which usually run with the less-powerful but less-expensive nickel metal hydride options.
Volvo claims its V60 PHEV is the world's first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle system to use a diesel engine, and it's the "plug-in" part that is the key.
While Peugeot's system will see the electric motor take over whenever appropriate, the V60 PHEV offers a selectable full-time "Pure" electric driving mode with a range of up to 52 kilometres - more than enough for the average daily commute.
That's one of three modes for the V60 PHEV, along with Hybrid and Power modes.
In Hybrid mode, the system will use both powertrains in a regular parallel-hybrid arrangement, offering a driving range of around 1200km (that's Melbourne to Newcastle), while listing an incredibly low fuel consumption rating of 1.9 l/100km.
With Power mode engaged, the vehicle will utilise both the diesel engine and electric motor for motivation, their combined clout urging the V60 to 100km/h in just 6.2 seconds.
That's two seconds quicker than the regular D5 diesel V60, and on par with the top-shelf T6 performer. According to Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby, performance was a key goal in developing the V60 PHEV.
“In order to get true car enthusiasts to think green, you have to offer them the opportunity to drive with low carbon dioxide emissions without taking away the adrenaline rush that promotes genuine driving pleasure,” Jacoby said at the car's European launch.
“The V60 Plug-in Hybrid has all the traditional properties of a genuine sports wagon. What we’ve done is to spice it up with spearhead technology that allows the driver to choose: zero emissions, high-efficiency hybrid or full-on performance. Just select the mode that suits best.”
For now, the V60 PHEV is available in Europe only, although Volvo Australia is understood to be working towards a 2013 local debut.
Restricted supply is the main holdup on an Australian launch, with only 1000 vehicles planned for the foreseeable future.
Standard specification for the V60 PHEV includes integrated exhaust pipes, 17-inch alloy wheels, and chrome "Plug-in Hybrid" badging.
Interestingly, Volvo says the V60 PHEV will be available in only one colour: not green, or even blue, but rather "Electric Silver".
Volvo says the car will cost between £45,000 (AU$69,555) and £50,000 before government subsidies are applied to the purchase.
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