New energy recovery tech could result in a leap forward in fuel consumption, while also reducing production costs, with KERS-based systems set to be introduced around 2020

Volvo is currently testing a British-designed flywheel energy recovery system, which reduces fuel consumption by more than 25 per cent, while costing just a quarter of the factory price of a conventional battery-electric hybrid.

The Flybrid KERS (Kinetic Recovery System) has been fitted to the rear axle of a test S60 saloon and can be used to assist the petrol engine that drives the front wheels. It can be used either to enhance performance, knocking 1.5 seconds off the 0-62mph time of the 254bhp S60 T5, or it can be used in economy mode to reduce Co2 emissions.

The flywheel system is based on a conventional flywheel which runs at a maximum of 60,000rpm and can deliver up to 80bhp. Kinetic energy is stored in the flywheel – which runs in a true vacuum – for 20 minutes before it begins to disperse. 

At full deployment, the S60 prototype gets a 10-second power boost. However, Volvo says that conventional brakes develop such a huge amount of energy that even gentle braking for eight seconds will fully recharge the flywheel. A Toyota Prius hybrid would take three times as long to store the same amount of energy, it’s claimed.

This new system is more sophisticated than previous flywheel systems because it drives the rear wheels through a continuously variable transmission built by Torotrack. Using a geared connection between the rear wheels and the flywheel also means that the flywheel can be spun up to speed more quickly than by direct drive from the rear wheels.

The core of the flywheel is made from steel and it is wrapped in a 10mm layer of carbonfibre. The flywheel runs in a vacuum and drives the Tototrack CVT – which uses tilting rotary discs to transmit the power. This, in turn, drives a series of gears slowing the drive output so it can then directly drive the car’s rear axle. The whole set-up in the prototype weighs around 60kg, far less than a battery-electric hybrid.

While this particular rear-drive set-up is unlikely to reach production, a future version will see the flywheel and Torotrack ‘box integrated into a front-wheel drive transmission. Volvo engineers told Autocar that “some form of KERS system” would be inevitable on production cars after 2020.

While most energy recovery systems work best in urban traffic – when the driver is using the brakes often – they are much less effective on motorways. However, Flybrid engineers told Autocar that, at motorway speeds, the flywheel could be re-charged while the engine is driving the wheels. 

Because it takes less than 30bhp to propel a car at a 70mph level cruise, the energy stored in the flywheel could be enough to continue driving the car at 70mph for up to half a mile, opening the possibility of high-speed ‘engine blipping’, where the engine drives the car for half a mile, before the flywheel takes over for half a mile.

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Comments
11

25 March 2014
This is the second news of its type I have read about Volvo working on some system to improve vehicle efficiency. It is good to know that the wheels are in motion. Now we are all awaiting anxiously a long-awaited breakthrough. And I don't mean gimmicky tweaks to engine parts or long-gearing to fool the EDC, but a real change that should see 25 to 50 per cent improvement in consumption while avoiding relying on the nascent and yet very expensive battery.

25 March 2014
OK I'm now confused. The fact the system stores energy from braking I understand, but the way I drive, which I consider to be efficient, is to plan well ahead and use the gearbox to slow down. I don't actually use brakes that much. So how is this system going to save me 25% fuel consumption? I fear it'll be a bit like my current 1.6tdci Focus. My 2009 1.6tdci Focus would average around the 59mpg mark with me at the wheel. My 2013 Focus, which has all sorts of devices to reduce fuel consumption just average 48mpg over 350 miles this weekend. I believe every Thesaurus should include the word 'economy' under 'inefficiency'.

25 March 2014
Gears are for accelerating. Cheaper to wear out pads than clutches

25 March 2014
Toyota Prius in T-Spirit guise weighs 1370 kg. So why do I keep hearing this nonsense about heavy hybrid systems? Father in law owns an Astra 1.6 petrol which I was astounded to learn weighs over 1600kg. Now that's heavy! Another point, this Kers type system loses energy in as little as 20 minutes. Obviously it takes much longer than this for the energy stored in a battery to dissipate. Start your car cold with Kers and you start with nothing. A hybrid still has 99% of what you finished your last journey with. I'd be surprised if these systems can come close to the real world economy a hybrid gives you. Still, another alternative is welcome, especially if it does turn out to be okay.

25 March 2014
Oilburner wrote:
Toyota Prius in T-Spirit guise weighs 1370 kg. So why do I keep hearing this nonsense about heavy hybrid systems? Father in law owns an Astra 1.6 petrol which I was astounded to learn weighs over 1600kg. Now that's heavy! Another point, this Kers type system loses energy in as little as 20 minutes. Obviously it takes much longer than this for the energy stored in a battery to dissipate. Start your car cold with Kers and you start with nothing. A hybrid still has 99% of what you finished your last journey with. I'd be surprised if these systems can come close to the real world economy a hybrid gives you. Still, another alternative is welcome, especially if it does turn out to be okay.
Seriously? Which generation of Astra? That's a lardy car for an astra.

25 March 2014
I had the same experience between a 2008 1.6 TDCi Focus and its 2011 replacement. Not sure though that slowing down with the gearbox helps, slowing down however you do it wastes energy, anticipation is the key. I for one see more hope, in the short term at least, with the Citroen C Cactus.

26 March 2014
The TX4 taxi is rear wheel drive, mostly works in a urban environment and has very poor MPG, surely it's a prime candidate for a trial of this technology.

26 March 2014
I wonder if the flywheel introduces any odd handling characteristics due to the gyro effect, or do they use two contra rotating flywheels so that the effect cancels out? Either way, I am sceptical that a 25% improvement in fuel consumption could be achieved - although I appreciate that being able to run the engine under a decent load most of the time would reap a good benefit to add to the energy recovery aspect.

26 March 2014
New gearboxes are also far more expensive than new brake pads. Don't slow by gearing down. A very bad idea. Totally agree, anticipation - being able to read the traffic, is the key.

26 March 2014
Yep - honestly. Astra I 1.6 petrol in SE spec with Auto - 1613 kg. If you think that's bad, the Eltie CDTI comes in over 1700kg... To be fair, the Golf Bluemotion is far more reasonable at 1280 kg. Still not much different to a Prius though.

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