Volvo C30 DrivE electric vehicle – Click above for high-res image gallery

During a presentation on the Volvo electric C30 today at the EnerDel facility in Fishers, IN, we heard a word we really didn't expect to hear: ethanol. We asked Lennart Stegland, Volvo's director of special vehicles, to explain what the biofuel has to do with the all-electric commuter car, and here's how it works: instead of using the battery to heat the batteries or the cabin, a small liquid-fuel heater is built into the car. See, it gets cold in Scandanavia, and using ethanol makes sure the driver does not have to accept any compromises to go electric, Stegland said, adding:
At zero degrees Centidrade or slightly colder, you lose about 35-40 percent of the range if you use electricty [to heat the battery and or the cabin]. What we decided is we can have the opportunity to have this fuel-operated heater, which has a capacity of about six kilowatts, so that will reduce the temperature [where the range loss starts] by about 20 degrees Centigrade. Then we use the battery only for mobility. All the heat is taken from the ethanol.
The system is a gasoline heater that was adapted to burn E85. The ethanol fuel tank is filled using the same fuel door as is used on a standard C30 to gas up and holds around 14 liters of fuel, enough to get you through about two weeks' worth of very cold weather if you keep the car plugged in whenever possible.

If the C30 makes it to the U.S. (a possibility sometime after 2013), the liquid fuel for the heater might be standard gasoline, Stegland said, since the system will be adapted market by market. As far as we know, Volvo is the only company using this method. At first glance, it seems really, really strange. On second thought, though, it kind of makes sense. The third thought? Well, that one is yours.

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Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by EnerDel