Gas en­gines on way out at Volvo

Its new mod­els from 2019 to be hy­brids or bat­tery-pow­ered

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM -

JACK EWING

FRANK­FURT — Volvo Cars said Wed­nes­day that all the ve­hi­cle mod­els it in­tro­duces from 2019 will be ei­ther hy­brids or pow­ered solely by bat­ter­ies, bet­ting that the era of the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine is com­ing to a close.

The de­ci­sion is the bold­est com­mit­ment by any main­stream au­tomaker to tech­nolo­gies that rep­re­sent a small share of the to­tal ve­hi­cle mar­ket. While ma­jor au­tomak­ers of­fer hy­brids and bat­tery­pow­ered ve­hi­cles, none has yet been will­ing to for­sake cars pow­ered solely by gaso­line or diesel fuel.

Hy­brids, which run on bat­tery power sup­ple­mented by gaso­line or diesel en­gines, ac­counted for about 2 per­cent of pas­sen­ger-car sales in the United States last year, and the num­ber has been de­clin­ing be­cause gaso­line prices have fallen.

And cars that run solely on bat­tery power are still rare in most coun­tries be­cause of high pur­chase prices, lengthy charg­ing times and lim­ited ranges.

Still, most car­mak­ers ex­pect the share of elec­tric cars to grow quickly as the tech­nol­ogy im­proves, prices fall and pub­lic charg­ing sta­tions be­come more com­mon­place. Rapid ad­vances in self-driv­ing cars will also en­cour­age a shift to bat­tery power: It is sim­pler to link self-driv­ing soft­ware to an elec­tric mo­tor than to a con­ven­tional in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine.

“This an­nounce­ment marks the end of the solely com­bus­tion en­gine-pow­ered car,” Hakan Sa­muels­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Volvo, said in a state­ment. The com­pany would still pro­duce older mod­els with con­ven­tional en­gines af­ter 2019.

But by fo­cus­ing on elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, Volvo can con­cen­trate its lim­ited re­search and de­vel­op­ment re­sources on new tech­nolo­gies rather than con­tin­u­ing to in­vest in fuel-pow­ered mo­tors that may be­come ob­so­lete. With sales of 534,000 cars last year, Volvo is dwarfed by com­pa­nies like Toy­ota,

Volk­swa­gen and Gen­eral Mo­tors, each of which sold about 10 mil­lion ve­hi­cles in 2016.

Volvo, which is based in Swe­den but owned by Geely Au­to­mo­bile Hold­ings of China, also will be able to draw on tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped by its par­ent com­pany. Geely sells elec­tric cars in China, one of the fastest-grow­ing mar­kets for bat­tery-pow­ered ve­hi­cles.

Volvo said Wed­nes­day that it would in­tro­duce five mod­els be­tween 2019 and 2021 that would run solely on elec­tric

power. That in­cludes two mod­els sold un­der Volvo’s Polestar brand, which the com­pany is po­si­tion­ing as a maker of high­per­for­mance elec­tri­fied cars.

Other mod­els will in­clude plug-in hy­brids, which can be charged from power out­lets and run for short dis­tances solely on bat­ter­ies, and so-called mild hy­brids, which charge their bat­ter­ies from the car’s con­ven­tional en­gine or by re­cov­er­ing en­ergy from brak­ing.

“Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a to­tal of 1 mil­lion elec­tri­fied cars by 2025,” Sa­muels­son said. “When we said it we meant it. This is how we are go­ing to do it.”

AP/JONAS EKSTROMER

Volvo chief ex­ec­u­tive Hakan Sa­muels­son, shown Wed­nes­day in Stock­holm, said the au­tomaker’s an­nounce­ment “marks the end of the solely com­bus­tion en­gine-pow­ered car.”

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