Volvo Launches its First BEV

can be reached at pavel@aol.com
can be reached at pavel@aol.com
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Volvo debuted its first all-electric model at a closed-circuit-televised press conference on October 16, 2019.

  • Volvo has introduced its first long-range all-electric vehicle, the XC40 Recharge.
  • The battery crossover will anchor a new sub-brand of plug-based models, dubbed Recharge, that Volvo believes will generate the majority of its business after 2025.
  • The Swedish automaker also plans a range of steps to go completely carbon-neutral by 2025, such as switching to solar power at its factories.

Volvo has rolled out its first all-electric model and plans to market the new XC40 Recharge through a new sub-brand specifically focused on plug-based vehicles.

The automaker expects that the various models in the new Recharge brand, which include plug-in hybrids as well as the new all-electric crossover, will generate about 20 percent of its global sales next year. But, by 2025, said Hakan Samulesson, Volvo Cars’ CEO, the target is 50 percent for pure battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) alone.

The launch of Volvo Recharge coincides with the automaker’s broader push to clean up its manufacturing act, adopting solar power and other renewable energy sources and using recycled materials, such as the cobalt in the new electric crossover’s batteries.

The new Volvo XC40 Recharge pulls up alongside the plug-in hybrids that make up the rest of the Recharge line-up at launch. (Photo: Volvo)

Such moves are critical, said Samuelsson, not just to address climate change but to prevent possible restrictions on personal mobility. “We should be very careful in restricting the freedom of people to move,” he said during a Wednesday news conference, “but it should be sustainable.”

Volvo has been among the most aggressive automotive manufacturers in migrating to cleaner, more energy-efficient powertrain technologies. Its plug-in hybrid powertrain technology, dubbed “Twin Engine,” already accounts for nearly one in five of the vehicles it sells. But the XC40 Recharge marks the first time it joins the growing club of manufacturers offering long-range, all-electric alternatives.

While it isn’t immediately offering many details, the new BEV relies on two motors, one on each axle, combining to produce 408 hp and 487 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to launch the compact CUV from 0 to 100 kmh (102 mph) in 4.9 seconds. To put that into perspective, that’s about 0.8 seconds slower than the Jaguar I-Pace making 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque.

The motors draw energy from a 78-kWh lithium-ion battery. Using the latest European test cycle, Volvo says that pack will deliver about 400 km, or 250 miles, per charge. That figure is likely to drop using the American EPA test process.

Most of the drivetrain, including motors, batteries and some electronics, is mounted below the floor. The XC40 Recharge shares the same platform as the standard version of the crossover which was intentionally designed to use a wide range of different powertrains.

The XC40 Recharge will get a new infotainment system with Google’s voice assistant and the ability to use smartphone-like over-the-air updates. (Photo: Volvo)

The 400-volt pack can tap into the latest generation of Level 3 quick chargers, Volvo officials noted, going from a 5 percent state-of-charge – the equivalent of a gas tank running on fumes – to 80 percent in about 40 minutes.

To further the appeal of the Recharge line, Volvo will offer a year of free charging to all new customers in major markets starting today. It’s not the only manufacturer using that strategy, some, like Porsche, providing free power for up to three years.

Like products from rival Tesla, the new XC40 Recharge can have all its software updated over-the-air (OTA), including both powertrain and infotainment systems. Like the conventionally powered XC40, the Recharge model features a large, vertically oriented touchscreen. But Chief Technology Officer Henrik Green told his audience that the new system “will deliver an experience as good as your smartphone.”

Volvo has worked with Google to develop a much more capable system integrating the same Google Assistant voice technology found in Android phones. A motorist can speak plain-language commands to operate the crossover’s climate control and navigation systems, for example, and to do things like accessing the Internet or send texts.

The OTA capability “allows us to add new features and functions” in the future, said Green, including those that not only expand the capabilities of the infotainment system but which also integrate with a motorist’s home.

Virtually every automaker, large and small, has announced some sort of battery-car program, but Volvo CEO Samuelsson said his company wants to “make sustainability part of our company purpose,” as much as safety has been until now. “We have changed the very structure of our company” to address the “very real threat” of climate change, he said Wednesday.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Volvo plans to change virtually every aspect of its business to make it more sustainable, CEO Samuelsson declaring that it’s business’s role to address climate change. The automaker’s Twin Engine PHEVs were the first step in the that direction, but the XC40 Recharge and other all-electric models to come will take that to a new level. The question is whether they will meet the expectations of still-skeptical consumers.


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can be reached at pavel@aol.com
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