Volvo's new three-cylinder T5 plug-in hybrid powertrain will significantly reduce the number of diesel cars it produces as it reacts to increasingly tough diesel emissions standards.
The new T5 hybrid system was shown in Gothenburg last month, alongside two 40-series concepts, and it will appear for the first time in the production XC40 next year.
It uses a 74bhp electric motor that can power one of the shafts of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox alongside a 180bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre three-pot petrol engine.
Electrical power comes from a 9.7kWh battery pack, which will give around 30 miles of electric-only range. According to Volvo’s head of R&D, Peter Mertens, the set-up is more efficient than rival hybrids and easier and cheaper to produce.
“It is a very attractive alternative to a diesel engine,” Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said in Gothenburg. “It offers much lower CO2 levels but more or less the same performance in both horsepower and torque. On cost, I would say that within a couple of years, we will see a crossover, the diesel getting more expensive and the [hybrid system] going down.”
Volvo hasn’t released any emissions or economy data yet, but insiders indicate the T5 will manage substantially better than 95g/km on official tests and deliver diesel-rivalling economy in real-world use.
When asked if diesel cars will still be on sale in 10 years’ time, Samuelsson said: “Diesels will be more expensive. They will have much more advanced after-treatment, with additional fluids that have to be filled not once a year but probably every time you fill the car.
"It’s very realistic that the percentage will go down. If it will go down to zero, I think we don’t need to speculate; let customers decide. We are flexible enough that we can make petrol and diesel cars on the same line.”
The T5 system will be used in all the 40-series variants. Samuelsson said it is also likely to be offered in 60-series cars but not the largest 90-series models, where Volvo has a four-cylinder T8 that uses an electrically powered rear axle.