In the early 1990s, automotive companies looked to the new millennium, the future, and the innovations it would bring. The Swedish brand Volvo, always oriented towards areas beyond driving, such as safety, decided to show its idea of a 21st century family saloon which, more than powerful, would respect the environment.
The platform from which the car debuted was the new P80 which was introduced in 1991 alongside the 850 and would give life to models such as the C70 until 2005. The most striking thing was the chosen motor configuration, as it was a hybrid with extended autonomy, consisting of an electric motor on the front axle, a battery pack and a thermal part that was in charge of feeding this assembly, which in this case was a was a part It was a diesel gas turbine.
Why choose this simplicity over a traditional engine? Firstly, because it was an experimental prototype, and secondly, because these mechanics have a somewhat higher thermal efficiency than conventional piston engines, which for current cars does not exceed 36%. The operation of the turbine itself encourages fuel atomization prior to combustion, thereby reducing nitrogen oxide emissions. On the other hand, these mechanics usually have high specific consumption. This Volvo could make over 50,000 revolutions per minute, was developed by the Royal Swedish Institute of Technology KTH and manufactured at the Volvo plant in Köping, Sweden.
Regarding the electrical part, it had a 95-horsepower electric motor, powered by a nickel-cadmium battery pack located under the trunk, and a central tunnel with 120 volt architecture – current electric cars already started to have 800 volts. are – and which are driven via a two-speed gearbox to the front axle. To feed from the thermal mechanics, a 40 kW generator was installed, although the batteries could also be recharged by plugging in and regenerative braking.
From the driving position, the mode of operation can be selected at will: purely electric for movement in large cities, and connected to a gas turbine to charge the battery for travel between cities.
Profit cannot be called stratospheric, but time must also be taken into account. 0-100 km/h was done in 23 seconds in 100% electric mode and in 12.5 with the turbine running. Top speed was 175 km/h, while autonomy was 145 km in electric mode and 668 with a full fuel tank, leading to a consumption of 5.3 litres/100 km.
To further enhance efficiency, the prototype mounted specialized 205/60 R15 Goodyear tires are inflated to a pressure of at least 4.5 bar, to reduce contact and friction with the asphalt to the minimum necessary.
The bodywork, designed by the firm’s design center in California, United States, allowed it to leave the drag coefficient at 0.23, although the more than 150 kg of extra weight did not contribute to its efficiency compared to the Volvo 850 which was fitted with a battery . The bodywork uses aluminium, which reduces the weight by around 215 kg when steel is used. With regard to the aesthetic aspect, it is not hidden that the ECC served as a canvas on all fronts for the future S80, which would not see the light until well into 1998.
For the interior, with enough space to accommodate four adults, materials designed for easy recycling were used without neglecting the safety that the firm has always flagged, such as the side curtain airbags. The driver also had Volvo’s ‘MindGuide’ system, which kept the driver informed about traffic conditions in real time.
Today, Volvo and Polestar are unanimously looking toward an electric future, but at least two more hybrid proposals saw the light of day along the way. The first, in the mid-90s, was the S40, a traditional hybrid in the style of the Toyota Prius. It employed a three-cylinder combustion engine with a small electric machine. Little or nothing was known about the project after it was canceled and the brand bought by the giant Ford.
In 2007 the C30 Recharge concept saw the light of day, a plug-in hybrid with at least four electric motors and a thermal motor with the same principle of extended autonomy that ECC boasted. Back in 2011, the Swedish diesel mechanics was the first brand to market a plug-in hybrid with the V60 PHEV.
Currently, the entire Volvo range is 100% electrified and only the Cross Country versions of the V60 and V90 do not offer an engine option with the DGT label 0, as they are only ‘mild-hybrid’ and must agree to ECO.