Dec 182011

Automatic Gearbox – same emissions

It’s not a straightforward green manoeuvre to pull off, but Volvo says it has managed it. As part of their range of fuel-efficient DRIVe vehicles, the Swedish automaker has just announced an automatic gearbox that produces the same impact on the environment as its manuals. Named the Powershift system, it will be fitted in a range of Volvos offering the equivalent levels of CO2 emissions and miles per gallon performance as six-speed manuals in the same range.

A milestone evolution of green cars

The new automatic transmission will be an option on the S60, V60, V70 and S80 models. This looks set to be the first time a car manufacturer has offered the same levels of fuel efficiency for an automatic when compared to the same vehicle with a manual transmission – making Volvo’s achievement something of a milestone in the evolution of green cars.

Start-Stop system

So how has Volvo achieved this? Well, the ins and outs of the engineering remain a secret but overall this has been done by reducing the level of internal friction within the gearbox. In addition, Volvo says it has adjusted the software controlling the gearbox and the engine, so too the onboard electrical systems. The most significant modification though is to the start-stop system so that the engine is automatically switched off once the vehicle’s speed falls below 3 miles per hour.

Volvo C30 Electric Car - even more fuel efficient

Volvo C30 Electric Car - even more fuel efficient

Fuel Efficiency improved

The result is pretty impressive. These are all medium to large automatics that can now do more than 62 miles per gallon for the diesel versions, and Volvo has also made adjustments to its petrol versions. For the S60, fuel economy has been improved significantly from just under 43 mpg previously for the 1.6-litre turbo to 49 mpg. However, the automatic version of this vehicle will have lower fuel efficiency than its manual equivalent.

Raise fuel efficiency without compromising driving experience

All of these improvements to the green credentials of some of Volvo’s best-selling vehicles will go into production in February. And it’s a sign that Volvo is following through with its stated goal when the Volvo DRIVe range was launched a few years ago – to raise fuel efficiency without compromising the driving experience. If green cars are to make the progress we all hope and become the norm, this point remains crucial, of course.

Change gears at the greenest possible moment

There are a number of tricks Volvo has used in recent years to shave off the fuel requirement of the cars in its DRIVe range. One key point has been to lower the ride height by just 10 millimetres which it claims has a marked effect on fuel efficiency. The key feature though is the start-stop one which automatically cuts the engine in and out when the vehicle comes to a complete stop. That helps to avoid unnecessary emissions when stopping at traffic lights, for example. Other features of the DRIVe system require the driver’s input, notably the change-up light that tells you the most economical point at which to go through the gears. Of course, in the newer, efficient automatic models this last feature won’t be necessary because the car will already be configured to change gears at the greenest moment possible.

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