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There are plenty of ways to get your holiday tree home from the farm, but few are so classy as this Volvo 850 ute. Built in Sweden and shipped to Belgium, the car wears all of the necessary kit to pass as a 850R, and with a turbocharged 2.3-liter five cylinder under the hood, this creation should have no trouble dashing through the snow. Looks like a mighty fine use of an otherwise derelict Volvo wagon to us, though we have to imagine all that torque steer and no weight over the aft would make for all sorts of silliness once the roads went slick.
Still, if it were our Sawzall, we'd be happier with the keys to a certain BMW M5 utility in our pocket. Or, you know, the 3 Series conversion BMW whipped up not too long ago. You can head over to Autofans.be for a closer look at the 850 ute.
One of the problems with designing an electric vehicle is figuring out where to fit the battery pack. Volvo - as a part of a European Union research project - is working on a way around this issue by replacing standard parts with lightweight components that double as batteries on both conventional and plug-in vehicles. The image above shows one such piece on a Volvo S80. While looking like nothing more than a carbon fiber plenum cover, the piece is actually a battery pack that can store and supply enough energy for the car's entire 12-volt power system.
The parts are made by sandwiching super capacitors (which can charge faster than standard batteries) in between layers of carbon fiber. They can then be formed to replace numerous body panels such as the decklid, roof or door panels. Volvo says that the replacing the body panels and batteries with these nano batteries can help reduce the vehicle's weight by as much as 15 percent. It has taken more than three years just to design the batteries, so there's no telling when, or if, we'll ever see this technology used on a production vehicle. Scroll down for a video and press release on Volvo's innovative battery technology.
Volvo wants us to know what kinds of new technology will be under the sheetmetal of the offerings that will sit on its Scalable Platform Architecture, the first of which will be included on the 2015 Volvo XC90 arriving at the end of next year. The silicon-chip onslaught starts with detection and auto braking for vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals. The company's animal detection tech now works at night thanks to better cameras and exposure controls.
Also due for the high-riding wagon are road edge and barrier detection with steer assist, a setup that identifies the edge of the road - even ones without markings. The system can steer the car back into its lane if it detects the driver is about to leave the road or collide with a barrier. Adaptive cruise control with steer assist allows the car to not only follow the flow of traffic on a straight road, but steer itself automatically.
Beyond that, the company is planning on other safety advances, but these will rely on automaker cooperation and infrastructure upgrades. Volvo has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Car 2 Car Communication Consortium on the subject of standards for communication between cars and wants to have it implemented by 2016. Sensors in traffic lights will enable Green Light Optimum Speed Advisory, which tells a driver how fast to go on a give stretch of road so as not to hit a red light. Weather, road condition, road works and emergency vehicle warnings will also inform drivers of new developments on the road. And autonomous parking, which Volvo has already demonstrated, stands to put a lot of valets out of work since it allows the car to find its own parking space without a driver inside.