What is it?
The globalised nature of the car industry throws up some strange anomalies.
Back in May 2016, Volvo previewed the Volvo XC40 at an event in Gothenburg, Sweden, telling us that it planned to offer the production version of the car with a very clever three-cylinder plug-in hybrid powertrain. Nearly three years on, we're still waiting to experience that car, but we have finally had the chance to sample the new powertrain in a very different environment: the test track of Geely's Hangzhou Bay R&D centre in China, and fitted to the Lynk&Co 01.
Lynk&Co is the Geely brand using the same Compact Modular Architecture that underpins the 40-series Volvos. Its first three products are already on sale in China, and we've previously driven the 01 and lower 02 SUVs, but the 01 PHEV is the first we've experienced that is destined for sale in Europe, albeit on what we're promised will be more dynamic chassis settings.
The powertrain is compellingly clever. Currently front-drive-only, as it will be in its Volvo applications, it uses a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox to integrate the efforts of the petrol and electric sides of its powertrain. So while the 177bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine can turn either of the gearbox's two shafts, the 80bhp electric motor is connected only to the one that does second, fourth, sixth and reverse gears.
The e-motor sits downstream of the clutch pack, meaning the 01 can be driven purely electrically with the engine switched off, or the motor can add assistance and, sometimes, will be in two gears at once, with one shaft turned by combustion and the other by flowing ions. The motor can also vary levels of regenerative braking by switching between different gears.