Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, or KERS, have been used in Formula One since 2009, and Volvo hopes to bring these hybrid systems to production cars by 2020. Using a flywheel to recapture kinetic energy from braking, Volvo says these systems could boost the fuel economy of their vehicles by as much as 25%.
The British-designed KERS system Volvo is testing has been fitted to the rear axle of a Volvo S60 T5 sedan, and can be used to either increase performance or boost fuel economy. In sport mode, the KERS system adds an extra 80 horsepower to the Volvo, shaving 1.5 seconds off of the 0 to 60 MPH time for up to ten continuous seconds.
Meanwhile in economy mode, this type of KERS system can propel the S60 for up to a half-mile using only recovered kinetic energy, and can be fully “recharged” in just 8 seconds of standard braking. Using the KERS system to get the car going could save a lot of fuel, as at-speed even a large car like the S60 only needs about 30 horsepower to maintain a 70 MPH cruising speed.
While Volvo says this sort of rear-mounted KERS system is unlikely to make it to production, a system integrated into a front-drive model could be on the road as early as 2020. Since the whole system only weighs 60 kg, or about 130 pounds, it doesn’t add much extra mass to the vehicle either, as battery powered vehicles get rather heavy fairly quickly (though Volvo has some clever solutions for that as well). Pair this KERS system with Volvo’s new E-Drive engines, and you could have a car approach 75+ MPG.
From Formula One to production vehicles in little more than a decade, KERS hybrids aren’t far off now. Perhaps it will even arrive in a vehicle not unlike the excellent Volvo XC Concept. A boost of power, or better fuel economy. Red pill or blue pill. Which do you choose?