Volvo has announced it is developing a new flywheel kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) to improve fuel efficiency and to provide six-cylinder-like torque and acceleration to four-cylinder cars.

Volvo KERS

Although it is early stages yet, Volvo says the system will incorporate a special rear-axle-mounted gearbox which will recharge a set of batteries during times of deceleration. The power stored will then be transferred back through the rear wheels as full electric power, and assist the internal combustion engine powering the front wheels.

In normal circumstances, the electric power will provide a short boost of propulsion to the rear wheels when taking off from a standstill - a commonly known instance which consumes large amounts of fuel. The petrol engine will then kick in once the vehicle is up to speed and when the batteries run out of juice.

If further acceleration is needed, both combustion and electric motors will provide power to the front and rear wheels accordingly. Volvo says the combination could provide an extra 60kW-boost to overall power. The company also says this could see 0-100km/h acceleration times considerably reduced.

Derek Crabb, Vice President of Powertrain Engineering at Volvo, said in a recent report,

"Our aim is to develop a complete system for kinetic energy recovery. This technology has the potential for reducing fuel consumption by up to 20 percent. What is more, it gives the driver an extra horsepower boost, giving a four-cylinder engine acceleration like a six-cylinder unit."

Volvo has released a very brief yet simple demonstration video of how the system will work. Take a look below.

In terms of when this technology will be available in the showrooms, Volvo says,

"Tests in a Volvo car will get under way in the second half of 2011. We expect cars with flywheel technology to reach the showrooms within a few years."