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Volvo gets closer to a zero-emission car with its new three-cylinder engine

Volvo, the Swedish automaker that wants to have a zero-fatality car by 2020, is also looking to fully eliminate emissions while maintaining real-world performance. The company has taken a big step in that direction by developing a three-cylinder engine that recently entered testing.

The small displacement power plant will be used for the company’s Drive-E engines, which is the heart of Volvo’s plug-in hybrid powertrain. Producing 180 horsepower on its own, the three-cylinder is being developed to work primarily on the automaker’s CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform.

Michael Fleiss, the Vice President of Powertrains at Volvo says that it can also make its way into the 60 series cars when combined with the advanced turbo technology that the company has been developing. This combination will also keep in step with Euro seven emission targets.

This doesn’t mean the diminutive engine won’t eventually solely power compact sedans, if Volvo’s recent successes are any indication of the future. Just this week, the company revealed that its upcoming full size SUV, the XC90 T8 Hybrid, will have a combined output of 400 horsepower from the Drive-E engine it will house, and a not insignificant 318 hp of that comes from the gas-fueled four-cylinder part of that system.

From there, its easy to speculate that within a handful of years, that number could be matched by a future version of this three-cylinder prototype, but with better fuel efficiency. It’s smaller size and weight would also contribute to better overall performance.

Related: Volvo’s all new XC90 gets a sporty R-Design upgrade

Things are even efficient on the manufacturing side of things, too. The new engine can be built on the same production lines as the four-cylinder, so production can be flexible without having to assemble brand new facilities.

As it’s still just a prototype in testing, Volvo isn’t revealing everything about its new engine right from the start, but we suspect that details about production models will come attached to bigger announcements as they marry the unit to all sorts of cars and powertrains in the very near future.