Volvo sets out electric future; unveils XC40 Recharge
The first pure-electric car from the Volvo brand has been revealed in the second phase of the Swedish company’s XC40 EV launch, and top company execs have outlined ambitious plans for its BEV (battery electric vehicle) future. The XC40 Recharge takes the name of the Volvo’s new line of chargeable cars that feature fully electric or plug-in hybrid powertrains.
Starting with the XC40, Volvo will introduce one new Recharge model to the line-up every year, according to Mattias Berglund, Volvo’s Propulsion Strategy Manager: “We are spearheading electric vehicles in the business right now because it’s what we want to do and what we expect our customers want us to do as well.”
“To start with, we will have electric variants of our existing models. The first model is obviously the XC40, and then further models beyond that will be up for discussion,” he explained, revealing that about half of his time is spent on EVs and PHEVs and the other half on traditional propulsion systems. “The plug-in hybrid range will remain because those vehicles are a very important part of our portfolio. Depending on market maturity, there will be a long transition from pure ICE to plug-in to full EV. We are also dependent on infrastructure, and the charging network [is growing] in different rates in different parts of the world.”
The four-wheel-drive XC40 Recharge is powered by two electric motors that have a combined peak output of 304 kW and 660 N·m (487 lb∙ft). These motors work in tandem with a 78-kW·h floor-mounted battery pack that enables the car to reach 100 km/h (62 mph) from a standstill in under 5 s. The powertrain package allows the electric XC40 to offer a top WLTP range of more than 400 km (249 mi) on a single charge. With the aid of a fast charger, users will be able to recharge up to 80% of the battery in 40 min.
XC40 Recharge is based on Volvo’s compact modular architecture, which was designed from the ground up for electrification. The Swedish OEM is also claiming that the car has more storage space than the traditional ICE model. The space under the bonnet—previously occupied by an engine and associated components—has been repackaged as an additional trunk with a capacity of 31 L (1.1 ft³).
The move into EVs is a big step for Volvo, with the company planning for 50% of the range to be full electric by 2025.
“Stopping movement is not the answer to solving the climate issue; we want people to move in a more efficient way,” explained Henrick Green, Chief Technology Officer, Volvo. “Pure electric vehicles running on—and built using—renewable energy are the only cars that can do this.”
“This is an amazing car, a car of firsts, and a car of the future,” he added. “It’s the first Volvo to run an infotainment system that is as good as your mobile phone. And it’s also the first Volvo to get better over time because of over-the-air software updates.”
Powered by Android and developed in partnership with Google, the infotainment system has been integrated with Volvo On Call, the OEM’s connected services platform. The cars will feature Google Assistant, Google Maps, and will evolve with “a new array of automotive apps developed by the developer community for Android,” said Green. “Real-time maps will keep drivers informed about congestion issues to save energy and will also suggest nearest charging station.”
Drivers of the plug-in hybrids in the Recharge range will also be able monitor how much time and money is spent on electric driving.
“We are the first OEM to team up with Google and integrate an infotainment system powered by Android OS with Google technologies from the start. It will have a voice control system that works every time you use it and understand what you are trying to do,” added Green, hinting at the questionable quality of some previous systems.
“Your Google Assistant in your home or phone gets better every day, and so does the system in your car,” he promised. “The over-the-air updates will be received for the operating system itself, but also for all the software inside the vehicle. It will enable the car to be up-to-date, but also offers new functions to the customer in their home. No longer will a car’s best day be the day it leaves the factory.”
Green highlighted the challenges of making the electric XC40 safe with regards the front, side, and rear structures, and said that all of these areas had been adapted and improved to reflect the new propulsion system. He also highlighted the integration of a new pilot assist and active safety platform, revealing it is the first Volvo to run on software developed by Zenuity, the Volvo/Veoneer joint venture.
“The XC40 Recharge will be one of the safest cars we’ve ever built as you could—and should—expect,” said Green. “It’s a big milestone for us and an insight for what the future will look like. The future is electric and we are super committed to go all in on it.”