What Volvo’s Electrification Announcement Really Means—and What it Will Take to Accomplish

Volvo just made a major commitment to electrification. Beginning in 2019, it will stop introducing new models with standalone internal-combustion engines. From that point, every new Volvo will have a 48-volt mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery-electric powertrain.

That makes Volvo the first major legacy automaker to commit to exclusively selling vehicles with some form of electrification. It's something many industry analysts have speculated will need to happen to meet future emissions standards, but is Volvo really making a smart investment in the future, or a risky gamble?

First, it's worth noting that even after 2019, the majority of new Volvos could still drive a lot like today's gasoline models. Volvo does plan to launch five all-electric models between 2019 and 2021, and will probably grow its lineup of plug-in hybrids, but 48-volt mild hybrids will probably account for most of its sales. And those cars shouldn't be confused with Priuses, either.

Unlike conventional hybrids, mild hybrids can only provide a limited amount of electric assist to an internal-combustion engine. They usually have small battery packs and motors, sometimes too small for sustained all-electric driving. But a mild hybrid system can take some of the load off a gasoline or diesel engine, and also power electrical accessories to further reduce fuel consumption. Mild hybrid systems are also cheaper and easier to develop than conventional hybrid powertrains.

Adoption of mild hybrid powertrains will allow Volvo to put a lot of electrified cars on the road quickly, but those cars will still rely on their internal-combustion engines most of the time. That means many drivers probably won't notice the difference over a conventional internal-combustion powertrain, which could make the whole thing easier for Volvo to sell to consumers.

Even if mild hybrids account for he majority of its sales, Volvo will still significantly increase the number of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars it manufactures. To do that, it will need a lot of batteries. Volvo hasn't announced a new battery-supply deal, or plans for its own battery factory along the lines of Tesla's "Gigafactory," but that might be the next step in its electrification push.

At a press conference Wednesday, Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson issued a challenge to suppliers, according to Automotive News Europe. He said Volvo's decision to electrify all of its future powertrains proves that suppliers of batteries and charging equipment can count on Volvo as a customer, and encouraged companies to make new investments in those areas. Volvo may also need to make its own investments in public charging stations to support its new electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

The electrification shift presents several issues, though Volvo is relatively well positioned to overcome them. It already has a relatively small lineup of vehicles that, crucially, doesn't include any pickup trucks or body-on-frame SUVs, two segments were electrification has proven challenging. Consolidation of the lineup onto two basic platforms—SPA for large and midsize models, and CMA for compacts—means a relatively small number of powertrains can be shared across a wide variety of models, reducing development costs.

Besides reducing emissions, a lineup of electrified vehicles could also help position Volvo for other tech trends. Beefed-up electrical systems and lithium-ion battery packs can handle the increased demand from more complex infotainment systems and the raft of sensors and computers needed to enable autonomous driving, an area in which in which Volvo is very interested.

Volvo has a lot to gain by ditching standalone internal-combustion engines, but a lot of work will be required over the next two years to accomplish that. If Volvo is successful, it could encourage other automakers to make the same leap.

Watch Red Bull’s Mad Mike Drift Around Goodwood in this Wacky Tour

Goodwood Festival of Speed may be over, but fans are still chomping at the bit for a taste of this 4-day long celebration of all things fast. We've seen plenty of footage of Goodwood's circuit and hill climb, but there are so much of the grounds we haven't explored. Festival of Speed aficionados may know every inch of the place, but those of us watching from home aren't given much to work with. New Zealand Drift King "Mad Mike" Whiddett has us covered though, giving fans a tour of the grounds and letting everyone meet the curators of the circuit in this hilarious Youtube skit.

Red Bull published a video right before the start of the Festival of Speed that takes us on a tour of every stage of the British racing celebration. Along for the ride is the Earl of March's butler, Monty, who narrated the tour and almost loses his lunch a few times. At the beginning of the video, we even get a glimpse of Lord March himself and Goodwood estate, the place that the Earl calls home. Mad Mike also recruits trial bike rider Dougie Lampkin to help with the tour, but suffice it to say that our primary tour guide isn't amused.

Mike's insane rotary-engined stadium truck named RUMBUL is a pleasure to see before its debut at Goodwood, but we're not sure if it's a good replacement for a tour bus.

This F-16 Unit Battling ISIS Has Legendarily Rebellious Revolutionary War Roots

Every year around July 4th, U.S. military units record greetings and write messages to celebrate the country’s independence. In their annual salute to the nation, members of the Vermont Air National Guard decided to share their state’s own connection to the American Revolution by holding a distinctive flag not everyone might recognize.

The 158th Fighter Wing is nicknamed “The Green Mountain Boys” after a militia that fought on the side of the United States during the Revolutionary War. In the blinding sun at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, five members of the wing and its 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron held up that group’s distinctive green and blue banner.

“It’s The Green Mountain Boys, live from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar,” one of them says in the brief recording. The unit, with its F-16 Viper fighter jets, has been in the region fighting ISIS as part of the U.S.-led coalition since December 2016.

Now, of course, there were no air forces or fighter jets during the American Revolution. Officially, the 158th traces its direct lineage to the 134th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and the formal recognition of the Vermont Air National Guard in 1946. But the wing highlight’s Vermont’s unique place in America’s formative history with its moniker. The Green Mountain Boys, and their leader Ethan Allen, was an important factor in the Revolutionary War and the creation of Vermont itself.

The militia and its grievances with British royal authorities actually predate the formal beginning of the colonial revolt that ultimately gave birth to the United States. In 1749, Benning Wentworth, the royal governor of what was then the Province of New Hampshire began issuing landing grants west of the Connecticut River. One had to pay to get one of these “New Hampshire Grants” and Wentworth was more interested in making money than anything else. As such, he had no qualms about allotting territory that was already claimed by individuals from the neighboring Province of New York.

The official insignia of the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard makes its historical association clear. The emblem of the Vermont Air National Guard 134th Fighter Squadron.

The resulting land disputes became so pronounced that King George III officially stepped in and decreed that the land belonged to New York in 1764. Many of the settlers from New Hampshire were outraged at the decision, which stripped them of their property, and began an armed revolt.

Ethan Allen, his brother Ira Allen, their cousins Seth Warner and Remember Baker, and other like-minded individuals formed what became known as The Green Mountain Boys at Catamount Tavern in Bennington. Taverns were a common meeting place at the time, with similar establishments having hosted the creation of The Sons of Liberty and the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Green Mountain Boys spent the subsequent years defending their claims and harassing officials and other “Yorkers.” By the time the Continental Congress declared independence from the British Crown in 1776, New York authorities had long had warrants out for the arrest of Ethan Allen and his "Bennington mob." But while this might have made it seem as though a union between the militia and the rebellious colonists would have been an easy decision, this was far from the reality.

Though his years of armed defiance of both authorities in New York who saw his claims as illegal and officials in New Hampshire who sought to reign in the Green Mountain Boys, Allen had alienated many on both sides. Revolutionary governments in both regions were in no rush to legitimize the group or its aspirations. As it turns out, a revolutionary force made of militia from Massachusetts and Connecticut were the first to enlist his aid as they pushed into what is today upstate New York.

An engraving of Ethan Allen at Ft. Ticonderoga.

Allen and The Green Mountain Boys joined the group, ultimately under the command of the infamous eventual traitor Benedict Arnold, for the assault on and capture of Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775. Afterwards, the militia made several independent attempts to seize control of Fort St. Jean in Quebec. These all failed, squeezing the force to the point that it effectively disbanded.

In June 1775, Allen and Seth Warner traveled to Philadelphia to propose the formal creation – with formal supplies and formal paychecks – of a “ranger regiment” from men in the New Hampshire Grants. The Continental Congress agreed, but effectively placed the resulting unit under the authority of New York’s new provisional government. In an apparent attempt not to upset their newfound legitimacy, the reformed Green Mountain Boys resoundingly elected Warner to lead the force, appointing Ira Allen and a third brother Herman to other important positions, but cutting the divisive Ethan out of the organization completely.

An artist's rendition of a Green Mountain Boy.

After some creative bargaining with General Philip Schuyler, head of the Continental Army’s Northern Department, Ethan Allen secured the right to accompany his men as a civilian. His ambitions quickly got the better of him and as American troops began their invasion of Canada he found himself increasingly unwelcome. Repeatedly sent out to try and rally Canadians and Native Americans to join the rebellious colonists against British rule, his hubris eventually took over and he tried to capture the city of Montreal in September 1775. Though he had the element of surprise, his company of 100 men was simply no match for the loyal defenders.

“I am very apprehensive of disagreeable consequences arising from Mr. Allen's imprudence,” Schuyler reportedly wrote after learning of the debacle, according to Michael Bellesiles Revolutionary Outlaws: Ethan Allen and the Struggle for Independence on the Early American Frontier. “I always dreaded his impatience and imprudence.”

An engraving of British forces capturing Ethan Allen and his men in Montreal.

Initially sent to a prison in Cornwall, Allen spent nearly three years bouncing from prison to prison after King George III decided he and other revolutionaries should be held in the colonies as prisoners of war. So, despite his previous run-ins with British officials, his sentence was relatively light as he received the substantial rights and limited parole befitting a captured officer. In May 1778, the British traded him for one of their own.

In the meantime, in January 1777, upset at their continued political limbo, a convention of individuals within the New Hampshire Grants decided to declare their own independence, separate from both Great Britain and the rebel colonists. First named the Republic of New Connecticut, the small country renamed itself the Republic of Vermont – a sort of portmanteau of the French phrase les verts monts, or Green Mountains – six months later. Despite Ethan Allen’s imprisonment and his militia’s complicated affiliation with the Continental Congress, they adopted his flag as their official symbol.

The flag of the Green Mountain Boys and the Republic of Vermont.

Effectively a rogue province within two rogue provinces, neither British nor continental authorities recognized the decision. And while the new government was keen to take property from individuals loyal to the Crown, they also welcomed deserters and others fleeing the conflict, becoming a sort of maroon community in the mountains. Many of the Allen family became major players in the new country’s politics and military affairs.

In 1778, Ethan Allen himself petitioned the Continental Congress to let Vermont join as an independent state. The New York delegation was especially resistant to this idea, with no amount of ongoing civil war warming them to the idea of ceding their claims to the region. In 1779, revolutionary Governor of New York George Clinton offered to drop all claims to property in New Hampshire Grants if the Vermonters would agree to accept his state’s authority over the area. Incensed at the offer and acting as lead negotiator, Allen not only flatly rejected it as an attempt “to deceive [the] woods people,” but subsequently negotiated in secret with British officials in Canada about rejoining the United Kingdom in exchange for becoming a new, separate Crown province. Those overtures, backed by generous prisoner transfers, failed to generate any support from King George III or other officials.

Allen’s treasonous actions meant that even after the new United States made peace with Great Britain in 1783, Vermont continued to operate as an independent country. The British had given up their claim to the territory, but the new U.S. government, perhaps ironically, had no intention of welcoming them into the union.

F-16s of the 134th Fighter Squadron.

The last stanza of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem The Song of the Vermonters, 1779 highlights this fiercely independent nature:

Come York or come Hampshire, come traitors or knaves,
If ye rule o'er our land ye shall rule o'er our graves;
Our vow is recorded—our banner unfurled,
In the name of Vermont we defy all the world!

Only after his death in 1789 did the situation begin to change, though there is no indication the two events were directly connected. The next year, New York and Vermont finally settled their differences, with an agreement to reimburse New Yorkers for their claims. Vermont paid $30,000, a not significant amount at the time, and on March 4, 1791 joined the union as the 14th state. In an ominous portent of things to come, the decision was motivated in part by the need for a free state to serve as a counterweight to the proposed admission of slave-owning Kentucky.

But as the Vermont Air National Guard’s Independence Day message highlights, the state remains very proud of its brief time as an independent country, and of Ethan Allen’s and The Green Mountain Boys’ spirit of freedom. Until 1960, Burlington International Airport was actually called Ethan Allen Air Force Base. Today, the Vermont National Guard as a whole carries the Green Mountain Boys name, as well.

“I am the dream of Ethan Allen, soaring above the battlefields of the American Revolutionary War from Bennington to Fort Ticonderoga,” the first sentence of the 158th Fighter Wing’s official history proudly declares. It continues the “legacy of the original Green Mountain Boys.”

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

Red Bull Has High Expectations for Austrian Grand Prix

Coming off the high from winning his fifth career Grand Prix in Baku, Daniel Ricciardo has further aspirations for race wins this season, and is targeting Red Bull Racing's home event in Austria as his next podium-topping finish. Though the Red Bull Ring is known for having some of the calendar's longer straights, the disadvantages that come with the team's use of TAG Heuer-branded Renault engines have not been shown to hold the team back at fast tracks, as shown in Baku, where Ricciardo took full advantage of the straight line speed offered by his trimmed wing angles in a hectic race to bring home the team's first win of the season.

Further good news about the team's prospects at the upcoming race has come from Renault, who are aiming to refine their current engine in response to their customer teams' complaints about a lack of power and reliability. Renault has been fortunate that their relative non-competitivity when compared to Ferrari's and Mercedes' has gone somewhat unnoticed this year, in light of the third consecutive year of Honda making an engine as powerful and reliable as a two-legged mule.

Upgrades to Renault's engine mapping in Baku improved the pace of cars that used it by an estimated 0.2 seconds per lap. This, the latest incremental Renault upgrade, may also apply well to the upcoming Austrian race, though the shorter lap of 2.7 miles compared to Baku's 3.7 miles may diminish the amount by which Red Bull will catch the leading Ferrari and Mercedes teams.

One improvement scheduled for introduction in Austria is a heightened awareness of impending reliability problems before they occur. This is in response to the multitude of Renault's at-fault engine failures in Baku, including Max Verstappen, Jolyon Palmer, and Daniil Kvyat.

After Austria, the Red Bull team will be receiving an upgraded fuel, courtesy of their Exxon-Mobil sponsors, which may further close the delta between Red Bull and top teams Ferrari and Mercedes at the British Grand Prix.

Watch This IMSA Driver Make The Save Of His Career at Watkins Glen

At the Sahlen's Six Hours of Glen last weekend, IMSA Prototype pilot Gustavo Yacaman found himself in, and luckily wiggled his way out of, a hairy situation in a crowded field. He was working to maneuver through traffic and squeeze past a pair of competitors who slammed on their brakes, causing Yacaman to lock up and spin 90 degrees towards the grass. High speeds sent him sailing sideways, but somehow, he never left the tarmac and was able to regain traction, and the car steered itself straight without issue -- how does something like this happen?

This all happened fairly early in the race, and it set the tone for the rest of Yacaman's day behind the wheel of his IMSA car.

The driver was pretty vocal about the event, calling it "THE biggest save" of his career. Immediately after the race, he reached on Twitter to get a video of the heroic recovery.

Thankfully for him (and for you), his team was able to dig up the helmet cam footage, giving us insight to the save through Yacaman's point of view.

If this isn't enough to make you pucker up, then perhaps you should ditch Gran Turismo and join the Big Leagues. Even Yacaman was spooked, but eventually felt more like a superhuman than anything.

Though he could count on his lucky stars to save him from a major crash, they weren't enough to win him the race. Regardless of final standings, Yacaman's surely happy with living to see another starting grid.

Know of a more miraculous save in racing than this? If so, post the proof in the comments or drop us a line at The Drive's Facebook page to get noticed!

Watch This C-130J Become Engulfed In Its Own Dust Storm During Rough Field Ops

If you read The War Zone regularly you are fully aware of our fascination with the legendary C-130 Hercules. The aircraft can be transformed to satisfy seemingly any logical application, and Lockheed continues to roll out new and highly relevant variants some 60 years after the first "Herky Bird" flew. Even the more exotic C-130 derivatives that were never built seem like totally logical evolutions of the C-130 concept in retrospect. But one capability that is anything but new for the super-versatile aerial hauler is operating from rough and austere airstrips.

USAF Combat Controllers can deploy to pretty much anywhere with the space available to land a C-130. Once on station, they act as both an advance party to prep the field and as guides to call in the aircraft. When teamed with thehardy Hercules, their combined talents can make big things happen in the middle of nowhere.

Case in point, this training exercise featured in the video below, where a USAF C-130J lands on what appears to be dry lakebed with the help of their Air Force Special Operations facilitators. The rugged nature of the C-130J is readily apparent when the entire aircraft becomes engulfed in a storm of blowing dust that is stirred up by its props laboring in reverse configuration. It is a spectacular piece of footage capturing the abilities of an equally spectacular aircraft.

Operations like these are underway right now in places like eastern Syria and other clandestine locales, and they often occur under the darkness of night. The ability to deliver vehicles and supplies cargo to austere forward operating locations, and to be able to support the personnel stationed there in a sustained manner independent of vulnerable land routes, is a capability that is as relevant today as ever. With C-130 transportable precision artillery weapons like HiMARS, small and isolated units can pack a big precision punch and can support friendly forces via showering the enemy with precision fires from dozens of miles away without the need of aircraft overhead.

Above all else, being able to access contested territory via tactical airlift on a grand scale is a capability that remains largely unique to the US armed forces, and the C-130 is an indispensable component of that prized capability.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com