The Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC) is located in Southern California just outside Los Angeles. It is home to a small team tasked with understanding the demands of the car market in years to come. This is where trends are born.
"The goal of the VMCC since its establishment in 1986 has been to look for concepts in new places, put together smart ideas and turn them into action, helping Volvo Cars grow in today's tough auto market," says Doug Frasher, Strategic Design Chief at the VMCC. "We aim to distinguish ourselves by seeing the 'big picture' beyond design or style alone."
In bringing together people from business, design and technology, Volvo believes it can take a very rounded view of the dynamics of society to create designs that work well now and in the future.
"Our cross-functional teams produce concepts that are more than styling, technological innovation or customer data," says Benny Sommerfeld, Concept Business Manager. "VMCC's methodology embraces in-depth monitoring and reviewing of trends, evaluating ideas for potential new product concepts, validating concepts in virtual and physical environments and reaching a 'go-to-market' position."
The VMCC team tries to figure out what the future will look like, what trends may affect our lives. Their findings are subsequently used to create “future-proof solutions that will stand the test of time.”
The VMCC has been involved in many key Volvo projects including the XC90, S80, S60, the Environmental Concept Car and the Safety Concept Car. In fact, the Volvo Safety Concept Car was the direct forbearer of the current Volvo C30.
Says VMCC Engineer Ichiro Sugioka, "VMCC's cross-function approach to wind tunnel research has totally reshaped how aerodynamics are viewed within Volvo Cars. It's extremely unusual for a designer to sit next to an aerodynamics scientist and interact with complete freedom."
One of the more interesting VMCC projects is the Volvo Re-Charge Concept, a plug-in hybrid with individual electric wheel motors and batteries capable of taking a recharge directly from a household electric outlet. A full recharge takes only three hours. The Re-Charge concept has been installed in a specially modified Volvo C30. It achieves an extended battery range through the use of a backup combustion engine that serves to power an onboard generator called the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). This unit supplies the driving force when the battery charge is low. The APU distributes electrical power to the individual motors at each wheel. Since the purpose of the gasoline-fueled engine is to power the APU, it can be optimized to meet the most stringent environmental emissions regulations. The APU is sufficiently powerful to supply an average-size home with electricity. Theoretically, with minor modifications, it could serve as a backup electric generator for the owner’s home.
The Volvo Re-Charge is a compelling concept that may yet see production in some form. The Re-Charge’s operating costs are around 80 percent lower than those of a comparable gasoline-powered car. It generates 66 percent less carbon dioxide compared with the best hybrid cars available, and its emissions could be even lower if most of the electricity used for recharging came from carbon dioxide-friendly sources such as biogas, hydropower and nuclear power.
"There is a considerable difference between our plug-in hybrid and today's hybrids. Today's hybrids use the battery only for short periods to assist the combustion engine. Our solution is designed for most people to run on electric power all the time while providing the extra security that comes with having a combustion engine as a secondary source of electrical power," says Ichiro Sugioka, Project Manager for the Volvo Re-Charge Concept at the VMCC.
With the search for an environmentally sustainable automotive drivetrain in full swing, the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center is playing a vital role in the development of the Volvos you will be driving in the near future.