Volvo has been dabbling with electric cars for quite some time now, but now they’re further developing the idea with the addition of combustion engines to serve as range extenders for their electric vehicles, increasing the amount of distance that an electric vehicle can cover.

Like hybrid cars, range extender electric vehicles have both an engine and an electric motor. Unlike hybrid cars, in range extender electric vehicles the combustion engine does not drive the wheels directly, instead it starts up only to generate electricity to recharge the vehicle’s battery. This is known as a series connected setup.

Examples of range extender electric vehicles that you may have heard of are the Chevrolet Volt, and in concept form, our very own Proton EMAS Concept.

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Volvo has produced a number of range extender concepts. They not only use a series setup but a parallel setup as well. The first one called Technical Concept I is based on a Volvo C30. It has a 3 cylinder engine producing 60 horsepower (45kW) installed under the rear boot. This engine is fueled by a 40 litre fuel tank. This 45kW engine is hooked up to a 40kW generator, which can either power the car’s 82kW electric motor, or recharge the car’s battery. According to Volvo, this allows the C30’s electric range to be boosted from the original 110km up to over 1,000km.

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Technical Concept II is also based on a Volvo C30. This isn’t a regular range extender vehicle as there is a combustion engine installed in the rear that directly drives the rear wheels, thus it is a parallel setup instead of a series setup. And it’s quite a powerful engine as well – a three cylinder that makes 190 horsepower thanks to a turbocharger, driving the rear wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine can also be used to charge a battery via a 40kW generator, which powers a 82kW electric motor. The two combined power sources puts out over 300hp, taking the C30 Technical Concept II up to 100km/h in under 6 seconds.

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The Technical Concept III is based on a Volvo V60. It’s similar to Technical Concept II where both the electric motor and engine drive the wheels, but in this setup the entire drivetrain is installed under the bonnet in the front. Up to 50km/h, the car runs on its 111hp (80kW) electric motor, but after that the 190hp kicks in. The engine is also hooked up to a 40kW generator so it can be used to charge the battery as well. The car can run 50km on the battery alone, but its 45 litre tank of petrol extends it up to over 1,000km.

“This is an exciting expansion of our increasing focus on electrification. Battery cost and size mean that all-electric cars still have a relatively limited operating range. With the Range Extender, the electric car has its effective range increased by a thousand kilometres – yet with carbon dioxide emissions below or way below 50 g/km,” says Derek Crabb, Vice President Powertrain Engineering at the Volvo Car Corporation.