In Depth: Volvo Drive-E Engines

Car makers are all trying to get top notch fuel economy without giving up power. One of the best ways to do that is to go to some form of forced induction. That is, forcing compressed air into the air intake of your engine. That gives you more power from the same engine displacement, which saves you fuel. There’s two ways to do forced induction:

Turbocharging: A turbocharger takes exhaust gases and uses those gases to spin a turbine, which in turn is connected to a compressor that compresses air that is coming into the engine. The main benefit of a turbocharger is that it consumes less power from the engine. The main drawback is that engine response suffers greatly because it takes time for the turbocharger to come up to speed. This delay in power delivery is referred to as turbo lag.

Supercharging: A supercharger uses the torque produced from the engine to spin a turbine which is in turn connected to a compressor that compresses air that is coming into the engine. The catch is that this method of forced induction results in some loss in power and efficiency.

As you can see, there’s pulses and minuses to either method. But if you look around, you tend to see more turbocharged engines out there. Clearly more car companies are hanging their hat on that technology. Now Volvo has used turbochargers for some time. But like I said, they like every other car company want to get more power from less gas. So they to do something radical. They took a smaller displacement engine and put both a turbocharger and a supercharger on it. If that isn’t radical enough, they then took a diesel engine, put two turbos on it (which I admit isn’t radical) and put an new kind of of fuel injector on it that adapts on the fly to save you fuel and produce lots of power (that’s the radical part). Oh, just for good measure, they developed a very efficient transmission to get just that extra level of efficiency out of either of these engines.

Volvo did all of that, and more (stay tuned for that in a second). The result is Volvo’s new Drive-E engines. Volvo will have the following engine choices available:

Drive-E diesel versions will range from 120 to 230 hp.The diesels feature world-first i-Art technology. By featuring pressure feedback from each fuel injector instead of using a traditional single pressure sensor in the common rail, i-Art makes it possible to continuously monitor and adapt fuel injection per combustion in each of the four cylinders.

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Each injector has a small computer on top of it that monitors injection pressure. Using this information, the self-adapting i-Art system makes sure that the ideal amount of fuel is injected during each combustion cycle. The combination of higher injection pressure and i-Art technology gives you an engine with improved fuel economy, considerably lower emissions and high performance output as well as a powerful sound character. The diesels also feature refinements such as state-of-the-art twin-turbo, reduced friction and a smart valve solution on the cooling system for a more rapid heat-up phase after a cold start.

Drive-E Gas versions will start at 140 hp and go all the way up to 300-plus hp. Using the supercharger to fill in the bottom end torque gives the gas engine a big, naturally aspirated feel. The mechanically linked compressor starts to function immediately at low revs, while the turbocharger kicks in when the airflow builds up.

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Other improvements to the Drive-E gas engines include friction-reduction measures such as ball bearings on the camshaft, high-speed continuous variable valve timing and intelligent heat management with a fully variable electric water pump.

Volvo has also developed a new 8-speed automatic transmission that contributes to a refined drive and excellent fuel economy. But if you’re someone who likes to shift their own gears, there’s a enhanced six speed manual transmission as well.

To add to all of that, in the future these engines can be electrified. Key components, such as the Integrated Starter Generator, can be connected easily – and the compact size of the four-cylinder engines means that the electric motor can be fitted in the front or rear of the vehicle. The battery pack will be located in the centre of the car. Impressive isn’t it?

Initially, the new S60, V60 and XC60 will be available with three engines from the new engine family: the 306 hp gas turbo T6, the 245 hp T5 and the turbo diesel D4 with 181 hp. The T5 and the D4 are also available in the new Volvo V70, XC70 and S80.

Clearly Volvo wants to give you fuel savings without compromising on power. Watch for them in Volvo’s coming to a dealer near you very soon. You should also watch for other car companies to take a good hard look at what Volvo is doing as well.

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