As Volvo Cars (Volvo) pushes toward its pledge to be an all-electric manufacturer by 2030, the company has quietly introduced a new, 48-volt mild-hybrid system for several of its 2022 models. The addition of a mild hybrid adds a fifth propulsion option to the global Volvo lineup.
Among the models receiving the 48-volt system are the S60 and S90 sedans, the XC60 SUV, and the V90 Cross Country wagon. Designated as the B5 (turbocharged) and B6 (turbo and supercharged) engines, the new hybrids will replace the outgoing T5 and T6 internal combustion engines (ICE).
The plug-less mild-hybrid powertrain is already a popular choice for other manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover, and Ford. Powered by a small electric motor working in conjunction with a traditional ICE, a 48-volt hybrid provides extra power and improved fuel economy. Volvo is reporting a fuel-efficiency increase of up to 15 percent over its gas-only counterparts.
A mild-hybrid concept is not new to Volvo, which released a 42-volt integrated starter generator at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show. But until now, the only hybrid-powered vehicles have been plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs).
The new mild-hybrid option provides many advantages of electrification without disrupting the traditional ownership experience. Because it does not need to be charged, the mild-hybrid driver is not limited by access to electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Though it is small, the 48-volt hybrid can also increase performance to the drivetrain.
The system is most notable in stop-and-go traffic, where repetitive acceleration can strain the engine and waste fuel in traditional vehicles. The electric motor initiates at low speeds with the mild hybrid, offering immediate acceleration until the ICE motor is required. The system also provides a smoother experience under such conditions.
Like fully electric and plug-in variants, the mild hybrids recharge themselves during regenerative braking and coasting. However, unlike the larger, heavier battery-powered engines, the mild-hybrid system occupies less space, improving cargo room. Also, because it is lighter, battery placement has less of an effect on handling, nor does it compromise vehicle performance.
Overall, mild hybrids are cheaper to produce. However, it is unclear how the offering will affect the sticker price until Volvo confirms pricing for its 2022 models. Unlike its fully electric and plug-in hybrid counterparts, the B5 and B6 powertrains will not qualify for federal tax incentives. The government requires that a vehicle be “capable of being recharged from an external source of electricity” to qualify.