Volvo’s Flywheel Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is the automaker’s solution for reducing fuel consumption and recapturing energy that’s normally lost during braking. The system is capable of sending up to 80 additional horsepower to the rear wheels, while curbing fuel consumption by as much as 20 percent.
KERS is a light, cheap solution that could make a four-cylinder engine perform like a six-cylinder engine. KERS isn’t ideal for storing energy for long periods of time, but it shines when the when a vehicle makes repeated stops and starts. In other words, the fuel savings will be greatest when driving in busy urban traffic as well as during active driving.
“Our aim is to develop a complete system for kinetic energy recovery. Tests in a Volvo car will get under way in the second half of 2011. This technology has the potential for reducing fuel consumption by up to 20 percent. What is more, it gives the driver an extra horsepower boost, giving a four-cylinder engine acceleration like a six-cylinder unit,” says Derek Crabb, Vice President VCC Powertrain Engineering.
The compact flywheel is made out of carbon fiber and spins in a vacuum at speeds up to 60,000 rpm. It’s activated by braking and can store energy that can be used to provide a little more off-the-line power.
While all-electric and hybrid powertrain technologies continue to capture attention, automakers are still looking at affordable, yet equally innovative methods to improve efficiency. Volvo believes that their flywheel system will be in Basking Ridge Volvo and other showrooms within a few years.
“We are not the first manufacturer to test flywheel technology. But nobody else has applied it to the rear axle of a car fitted with a combustion engine driving the front wheels. If the tests and technical development go as planned, we expect cars with flywheel technology to reach the showrooms within a few years,” says Derek Crabb. He concludes: “The flywheel technology is relatively cheap. It can be used in a much larger volume of our cars than top-of-the-line technology such as the plug-in hybrid. This means that it has potential to play a major role in our CO2-cutting DRIVe Towards Zero strategy.”