Volvo’s 450-Hp Drive-E Powertrain Concept Proves Pure Electric Is The Future


Two Turbochargers

Two Turbochargers

When Volvo revealed its 450-HP Drive-E engine concept of the future, we immediately realized that the complexity of this engine proves that pure electric is the future.

Just look at what’s involved in getting this level of performance out of a gas engine that meets all future emissions requirements:

Volvo Cars reveals 450 horsepower High Performance Drive-E Powertrain Concept

Triple Boost Technology takes Volvo’s four-cylinder Drive-E Powertrain petrol engine to 450 BHP
Further proof of Volvo’s commitment to delivering driving pleasure through down-sizing

Volvo delivers a unique combination of performance and efficiency with the High Performance Drive-E Powertrain Concept – a triple boost 2-liter 4-cylinder petrol engine with no less than 450 hp.

Following the successful introduction of Volvo’s Drive-E Powertrain range in 2013, Volvo’s powertrain team once again demonstrates its technological leadership in emission-reducing turbo technology.

“When we launched the Drive-E powertrain family, our aim was to deliver the most advanced 4-cylinder engines in the industry based on emissions and fuel consumption relative to performance and drivability. We knew that 320 hp in our petrol configuration was just a starting point. The 450 hp High Performance Drive-E Powertrain Concept, demonstrates this ambition and the versatility of the Drive-E Powertrains,” says Dr. Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President for Research and Development at Volvo Car Group.

The 450 hp High Performance Drive-E Powertrain Concept is based on a set of technologies not usually found in a four cylinder engine. The engine utilizes two parallel turbochargers, which are fed by an electrically powered turbo-compressor. The compressed air from this unit, rather than being fed to the cylinders, is instead used to spool up the two parallel turbochargers. Fuel is fed by a dual fuel pump working at 250 bar pressure. With this kind of power density, this triple boost installation and unique fuel system, enables a very dynamic drivability without any turbo lag, compared to a mono-turbo.

Two Fuel Pumps

Two Fuel Pumps

“There are several high power small size applications where one large turbo is used to create a high level of power available from other manufacturers, but the driving experience suffers due to slow engine response. We felt that with our heritage of being among the first car companies to embrace and offer a broad range of turbo technology since 1981, that we could improve this,” says Michael Fleiss, Vice President of Powertrain Engineering at Volvo Car Group.

The High Performance Drive-E Powertrain Concept attracted the attention and involvement of Volvo Cars suppliers AVL, Denso and Volvo Polestar Racing at an early stage, which allowed theories and technologies from racing applications to be infused in the development process.

“This was a very exciting project as we pioneered a combination of technologies in the same application, and the result is a quite unique engine with its high power yet quick response. Above all, its compact size improves weight distribution between the front and rear axle and lowers the center of gravity – two factors that have a significant effect on the handling, whether it is a race car or a street car,” said Mattias Evensson, Race Engine Director at Volvo Polestar Racing.

“It may sound odd, but this 450 hp powertrain concept is an important part of the Drive-E development program. Down-sizing must offer customers attractive and usable power for broad scale emissions reduction to work. Compact powertrains free up space and weight in the structure of the car, which can be used for electrification and even further emissions reduction. And that is our ultimate ambition,” concludes Dr. Mertens.

Meanwhile, the Tesla Model S P85D’s powertrain kills this Volvo Drive-E concept, yet remains nearly as simplistic as the original single-motor Model S.

With the reveal of the P85D, Tesla has changed the game yet again.  Making a comparably powerful ICE vehicle with even decent fuel economy is simply cost prohibitive on the production side, unless it’s priced in supercar territory ($300,000-plus), then production costs don’t matter so much.

Categories: Volvo


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26 Comments on "Volvo’s 450-Hp Drive-E Powertrain Concept Proves Pure Electric Is The Future"

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Why have two turbos powerd by a compressor? Why not just an compresor straight away?
That is just an extra convertion along the way..

From the article:

“. . . enables a very dynamic drivability without any turbo lag, compared to a mono-turbo.

“There are several high power small size applications where one large turbo is used to create a high level of power available from other manufacturers, but the driving experience suffers due to slow engine response.”

Yes, but why not have the compresor strait away? A electric driven compresor would remove turbolag.
Why go threw the hassel of having it compress air to drive the turbos to compress air?

The article is confusing. What is happening is that an electric driven turbo (most would call it a supercharger, since it’s not driven by exhaust) is compressing air that is fed into the air intake of the twin turbochargers. Those turbochargers further compress the air before entering the engine.
Before there is much exhaust (at low rpms), the electric supercharger is doing most of the work. The resulting exhaust from that low end boost with spool the twin turbochargers much earlier than they would on their own.
Once the twin turbos are spooled up, I assume the power to the electric supercharger will be cut and/or a bypass valve will be opened.

but that is nothing new, thats how my boat engine works, it is a diesel engine with a turbo (driven by the exhausted) for high rpm, and a compressor feeding the air at low rpm.
this is absolutely nothing new or revolutionary, that engine is from the early 00s

An electric supercharger is new. AFAIK the McClaren P1 is the only production car with one. Its not revolutionary, but at the pace the auto industry moves, its newsworthy.

Turbos are more energy efficient than compressors, whether belt-driven (i.e. a supercharger) or electrically driven.

They compression is done by scavenging exhaust energy which would, for the most part, be wasted otherwise.

Agreed for the most part. However we should acknowledge that no reasonably priced EV gets anywhere near 450 HP.

That said, 450HP in a passenger vehicle isn’t reasonable either.

I’m eagerly awaiting 2017 2018 when we get better AER EVs and PHEVs which will hopefully perform well without compromising. At that time you’ll see the slow death of ICE in the passenger vehicle market.

Until then I’ll buy a Volt and see where it takes me!

How does this extremely powerful, downsized 4-cylinder engine prove that pure electric is the future? Wouldn’t squeezing a lot more power and efficiency out of ICE technology actually help pure ICE vehicles to still exist in the future, and help EREVs to supplant BEVs as the dominant type of EV in the future?

Also, I don’t think replacing an exhaust-powered compressor to spool up the turbos with an electrically-powered compressor to spool up the turbos makes the engine more complex. It actually makes it LESS complex since now you don’t need route the exhaust to power the turbo, you don’t need a waste gate, and you don’t need to route the antifreeze or oil to cool the turbocharger bearings.

Agreed. The electric turbos mark a big lateral shift in controls complexity and controlability. Moving components off of the engine accessory belt or exhaust airflow reduces the overall complexity.

This only proves that ICE can still be done more efficiently, and the complexity isn’t always as clear as it may seem.

I’m assuming “pure electric” means BEVs.

You answered your own question by saying that electrifying the turbos will make the powertrain simpler, therefore by electrifying the whole powertrain and having as few moving parts as possible, it becomes much simpler with less chances of something breaking down. Also an electric motor has an efficiency of about 90% vs an ICE which has an average of 20% efficiency.

I’m skiddish about trying to get 450 horsepower out of a 4 cylinder engine. I’m of course wondering how conservatively designed all the parts and turbo chargers are made. Ford had some initial problems with their very expensive eco-boosts.

So is this a brand new engine, or does it have a few hundred thousand miles under its belt?

This is going to be one very hard working engine, and I’m almost not worried about the electric issues until the reliability of this either noteworty (or notorious) engine is proven.

Two fuel pumps… lol…
Stick to electric cars

“Fuel is fed by a dual fuel pump working at 250 bar pressure. ” -Volvo

Two fuel pumps are typical for modern direct injection, making the safe assumption that they wouldn’t use 3,500 psi into an intake manifold.

Eric nailed it, with his title. ICE is going for “blood from stone”. A used P85 wouldn’t cost much more than what Volvo will put this in. About the same power, with delivery responsiveness that puts turbo engineering to shame.

Brilliant. Increased efficiency is by far the largest contributor to reduced oil usage.

The electrification is coming but at a slow pace. So it’s good that companies like Vovlo show they way in efficiency until the day comes that EVs are mainstream, at enough production capacity, affordable and without compromises.

I’m impressed with Toyota’s plan to put Atkinson cycle engines into all it’s non-hybrid cars (sports cars will get dual Otto and Atkinson-cycle engines). These Atkinson-cycle engines have around 38% thermal efficiency. Toyota figured out how to increase low to mid range torque on Atkinson-cycle engines by reshaping the intake port to increase the tumble flow of the air-fuel mixture.

No it’s not. Elimination of the usage of fuel is the biggest contributor to reduced oil usage. Efficiency means you use somewhat less to do the same amount of work, but replacement with a different power source means you can make huge leaps in oil use reductions.

Otherwise, the sheer volume of Prii in the world would actually mean some real reduction in oil usage. And there isn’t one.

Nope. Ahead of EV’s you not only have efficiency, you also have biofuels and investment in public transport that saves more oil.

One day EV’s will climb on that list. But the sheer scale of it will make that day come sometime in an not that near future. And when it comes it will be PHEV’s that do most of the work.

But BEVs need to start somewhere too, even though they are and will be marginal for some time to come.

Basically, they added an electric supercharger to an already twin-turbo motor. It’s not “the end is nigh” for ICE that the title suggests. Indeed, Volvo is also offering a 400HP PHEV in the T8. Sure, the battery only miles are low in this first generation of PHEVs (Volt excluded), but honestly as you start to eclipse about 50 or 60 miles of BEV range you have to add a LOT of battery to even come remotely close to what a gas engine offers in terms of flexibility just to get the “last X% of driving on gas off the table”.

Agreed, but I think the author could have made a better point by pointing by saying primarily electric.

Tesla makes a 470hp induction motor with ~150 lbs or so of copper, steel, and aluminum, with one moving part. Okay, I guess there’s a coolant pump in there too, but it has 1/20th the cooling requirement of an equivalent ICE.

In light of that, the performance ICE’s days are numbered. BMW’s i3 REx is the long term future of the ICE for personal transportation.

Clearly we all love our EVs, but you have to give credit where credit is due; there is some nice engineering going on here. 450 hp from 4 cylinders without 450hp V8 fuel economy and emissions is not a bad thing.

It is truly impressive to get 450hp out of a 4-cyl, but increasingly unnecessary. I concur with the author.

I remember seeing one of the 1963 Chrystler Turbine cars, in Texas. I guess they destroyed them like the ev-1.

Jay Leno has one.

A simplistic 4-cylinder engine has around 300 separate parts. This beast has got to have at least 1.25x as many parts. All potential points of failure. That doesn’t even include the transmission. Yikes!

I’ll stick with my EV and its very reliable electric motor. One moving part.