Skip to main content

Sold out 2013 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid rockets towards finals of 2013 World Green Car Award

The Volvo V60 has a powerful and unusual green car drive system. It may win a green car award, but if you can't have one, what is the point?

The 2013 Volvo V60 Plug-in hybrid (PIH) electric vehicle is one of three remaining candidates for the “2013 World Green Car of the Year Award.” This award is presented at the New York Auto Show. The panelists that select the car are 66 automotive journalists from 23 countries. The Volvo has a couple of unique aspects that will make it a very interesting winner, should it take first prize.

What makes the 2013 Volvo V60 Plug in Hybrid so unique is that it is a diesel hybrid. A quick glance at any news story or opinion piece on the topic shows that many (who should know better) ask why there are not more diesel-hybrid cars. The answer in short-form is that the beneficial aspects of a diesel motor, and the beneficial aspects of a hybrid drive system, generally overlap one another. The overlap is not perfect, meaning there is more to gain from a combination of both than either one individually in terms of energy efficiency. However, diesel and hybrid drive systems come with a significant cost penalty in comparison to a gasoline powered car. In other words, car companies can build a diesel hybrid, but the result is a very expensive vehicle that does not get much better mileage than a gas hybrid.

That said, the 2013 Volvo V60 Plug In hybrid has found a marketing niche. This is a wise move by Volvo, and its partner on the project, Swedish Electricity supplier Vattenfall. Doug Speck, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service at Volvo Car Group sums up the intended buyer for this unusual green car saying "The ingenious on-demand possibility makes the V60 Plug-in Hybrid superior to all other hybrids on the market. Thanks to the Pure, Hybrid and Power modes, the car is the perfect choice for the uncompromising customer who wants to minimize his or her carbon dioxide emissions but maximize driving pleasure.” Mr. Speck is referring to a power mode selector switch that allows the driver to decide if he is driving on “Power,” “Hybrid,” or “Pure.” Pure means electric. Although we will continue to explain why this is a good idea, and Mr. Speck is not wrong about the car in general, the idea that this type of switch is unique to Volvo is laughable. I have tested a lot of hybrids and every single one had a switch similar to this. Second, in the US, the EPA mandates that all fuel efficiency testing be done with any such switch in the most powerful, least efficient position. The whole point is to prevent a car maker from putting a 1 mile EV system in a Mustang GT to boost fuel economy ratings, which the driver can then switch to "off" and ignore completely. So the cars sold in the US have to disable the “Power” button after a while so the car reverts to hybrid.

The niche the V60 plug in hybrid has is it's as fast as a normal Volvo V60 with the top gasoline engine. It can sprint from 0-60 mph in about 5.1 seconds according to the manufacturer. That is about the same performance as Volvo's turbocharged “R” wagons this size. So the car is fast, fuel efficient, has a great EV-only system that can move the car a respectable 31 miles or so on battery alone. However, this press release and others say the car is sold out. Those press releases also don’t mention the car’s price, which readers of TN have written in saying was the equivalent of about $110,000.00 US dollars. Thus we have a mid-sized wagon-body Tesla Model S competitor on our hands. The cars sold out a long time ago. Would it be a conspiracy theory to suggest Volvo and the Swedish power company took a bath on each on built and therefore limited production to the minimum possible as a promotional project? It has been sold out for six months. Why not make more?

Just this week an esteemed auto writer at Torque News predicted the coming of a powerful performance car with an on-board PIH system to make the car also a green car. He was thinking of a Camaro SS and a future, less expensive electric drive system, but it seems Volvo decided not to wait for the cost to come down. Cool.