Volvo open to fuel cells as range extenders in longer term

2018 Volvo XC60

Volvo made a wave when it became one of the first brands to announce that every vehicle it launches from 2019 on would feature an electric motor, but it won’t stop there. While the near-term goal is to introduce more battery-electric cars, the brand won’t exclude hydrogen fuel cells.

reported on Thursday that a fuel cell could serve as a range extender in future Volvo cars. The strategy is markedly different from other brands such as Mercedes-Benz, which plans for a fuel-cell-powered GLC F-Cell for 2019. The luxury SUV is actually a hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid with a 13.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery as the fuel cell’s backup. Volvo isn’t nearly as bullish on fuel cells in the short term and vice president of sales and marketing Bjorn Annwall said the fuel-cell range extender may not be ready until around 2027.

“I think fuel cell is interesting but for the next 10 years, it’s batteries. But a fuel cell is essentially a liquid battery, so at some point maybe,” he said.

The report said Volvo Group’s research and development company, Powercell, has completed pre-development of a 20-kilowatt (27-horsepower) fuel-cell range extender that will fit to the XC90’s hybrid powertrain. Volvo gravitated toward the idea of fuel-cell range extenders to keep emission levels at zero. The fuel cell will keep the hybrid powertrain’s battery charged at full capacity to ensure full power. Annwall again reiterated the technology is still far out, but said, “never say never when it comes to technologies.”

Volvo will launch its first purely electric car in 2019, which will boast 250 miles of range and start between $35,000 and $40,000. Two additional electric cars will arrive between 2019 and 2021.

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