According to a report from Plug in Cars, the ethanol will not power the engine; rather, it is designed to run the car's heater. Volvo said the 3.8 gallon tank "makes it possible to get comfortable heating in cold winter conditions without compromising the battery driving range."
If drivers can't find ethanol, they can heat the car using electricity.
"The driver can program and control the climate unit to suit the trip," said Lennart Stegland, director of Volvo Cars' Special Vehicles. "Ethanol is the default mode that is used when the battery capacity is needed for driving extend mobility to its maximum. However, on shorter distances electricity can be used to power the climate system."
Nick Chambers of Plug in Cars writes:
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Volvo is not clear on how the ethanol generates heat (burning? catalytic reaction?), but the effort seems a bit gimmicky given that electric resistance heating is probably a few times more efficient than burning ethanol to generate heat. A catalytic reaction of some sort could be more efficient, but I'm not a good enough chemist to know. Yes you could save yourself some range by not running the electric heater from the battery, but even in the coldest weather it will likely only be a difference of 10% range.
The Volvo C30 will be available for lease on a limited basis starting next year -- for a stunning $2,100 per month.
To read more, go to FutureCars.com