Fuel-saving 'KERS' technology could be in cars within years, Volvo says

Swedish automaker Volvo is working on a new system to cut fuel consumption in its vehicles by up to 20 percent, it has announced.

Volvo said May 26 that it is developing a "flywheel" system for energy recovery which is capable of storing energy created during braking for use again in acceleration.

The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) developed by Volvo uses energy created during the braking of the vehicle to spin up a flywheel at speeds of up to 60,000 rpm.

With the flywheel spinning at such speeds in a vacuum, energy can be transferred back into the rear wheels when the driver needs to accelerate again, powering the vehicle until it reaches cruising speed.

The extra boost makes a four-cylinder engine feel like a six-cylinder in terms of acceleration, says Volvo, giving an extra boost of up to 80 horsepower when it's needed the most and cutting the 0-100km/h time "significantly."

But it's the environmentally friendly argument which could prove most powerful - the automaker's project, funded by the Swedish government, means that the engine could be switched off for about half the time when driving to the official New European Driving Cycle test standards, says Volvo.

That means a significant fall in emissions, and because the flywheel can only store power for a short amount of time (eventually the carbon fiber wheel will will lose momentum), it's ideally suited for stop-start driving in cities.

"The flywheel technology is relatively cheap," said Volvo's Derek Crabb.

"It can be used in a much larger volume of our cars than top-of-the-line technology such as the plug-in hybrid."

Flywheels aren't new - they've been used in engineering in various forms for centuries to store power - but the potential applications in automotive engineering are only just becoming clear.

Earlier this year, Porsche unveiled the 918 RSR, a motorsports model which used a flywheel to provide an eight-second power boost on the track when necessary.

However, it was just a concept, unlike Volvo's technology which could be in the showrooms within a few years, according to Crabb.

A basic demonstration of how a flywheel works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV_b5oMqc2M

http://www.volvo.com

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