Today in Los Angeles, Volvo took the wraps off its new fully electric Volvo XC40 Recharge, supported by a plan for the company to rapidly convert its vehicles and company operations to low emissions. The XC40 leads the charge for the company, but is only one prong in the larger Volvo effort.
The Fully Electric Volvo XC40 Recharge
The XC40 Recharge is a bold push into the fully electric future and will be joined by a new fully electric member of the Volvo family every year for the next few years, Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said. To kick things off, the XC40 is a fully electric version of Volvo’s best selling, award winning sport utility vehicle and ushers in a new generation for Volvo.
“It’s a car of firsts and it’s a car of the future,” Volvo Chief Technology Officer Henrik Green said. The XC40 Recharge is indeed the first fully electric car from Volvo, but it also brings a lot of other technology firsts to the table. It is the first Volvo to be graced with Volvo’s proprietary new Advanced Driver Assistance System and is the first Volvo to arrive with a new user interface co-developed with Google. That translates to a Volvo that raises and resets the bar for what it means to wear the Volvo badge.
Emissions expectations have been reset, starting at the top of the company and working its way on down. “The climate issue cannot and will not be solved slowly and gradually by improving petrol and diesel engines,” Green said. Volvo is committed to an electric future and it was clear at the event that this is not a side project or compliance exercise for Volvo, but rather, a rapid about-face that will see the company going fully electric at a fast clip. “It’s an insight for what the future looks like. The future is electric and we’re going all in on it.”
The XC40 Recharge couldn’t be a part of family gatherings back at Volvo HQ if it didn’t have some serious safety cred, and on that, it delivers in spades. “Regardless of what drives a car forward, be it an electric machine or combustion engine, a Volvo must be safe,” says Malin Ekholm, head of safety at Volvo Cars said in a release about the safety of the XC40 Recharge. “The fully electric XC40 will be one of the safest cars we have ever built.” Safety is clearly a fundamental rite of passage for any Volvo, but the challenge is different with electric vehicles.
“This is our first fully electric vehicle,” Volvo CTO Henrik Green said at the event, but he went on to note that, “to make an EV safe has its challenges.” That discussion starts with the battery, but there are multiple facets to the equation. First off, designing an electric vehicle gets rid of the internal combustion engine under the hood and ditches the fuel tank out back in favor of smaller electric motors that in the XC40 live between the wheels in the front and rear of the vehicle. The sloshing mass of the gas tank is replaced with the solid mass of the battery that remains constant regardless of the state of charge of the vehicle.
Building the battery into the vehicle at the lowest point in the center of the vehicle helps keep the vehicle pinned to the ground in the event of an accident, but something must be done to protect it, especially when it comes to side impacts. The team at Volvo took on the challenge, building a new safety structure for the car that protects both the battery and the passengers alike. The safety cage around the XC40 was fabricated from extruded aluminum that is embedded in the middle of the body of the car, effectively creating a crumple zone around the battery itself.
Volvo built the entire structure of the car with a safety-first approach, but that’s really just the beginning. Volvo built a special software and sensor system that it is debuting in the XC40 Recharge. The new Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) leverages a full complement of radar, camera and ultrasonic sensors that have been integrated with software developed by Zenuity, the joint venture company owned by Volvo Cars and Veoneer.
The result is an active safety system that not only makes the cars safer today, it lays the foundation for a fully electric, autonomous future tomorrow.
When it comes to range, the XC40 Recharge will arrive with a range of more than 400 kilometers | 250 miles per charge as measured on the WLTP testing cycle. Volvo lists the EPA range as more than 200 miles | 322 kilometers per charge, but using a typical scaling of EPA range being about 10% lower than WLTP range, we expect an actual EPA range of around 360 kilometers | 224 miles per charge.
The XC40 Recharge sports a 78 kWh battery, with 75 kWh of that being usable for day-to-day driving. CTO Henrik Green spoke about how Volvo has been working with battery cell suppliers for years to obtain the most sustainable battery cells, as they continue to be large contributors to the lifetime carbon footprint of battery electric vehicles.
When it comes to charging, the XC40 keeps pace with the competition with a 0-80% charging time of 7.5 hours on an 11 kW AC charger or just 40 minutes on a 150 kW DC fast charger. “It’s electric without compromise,” Green said. Admittedly, these figures are at ideal conditions as drivers will never be able to get the battery down to zero percent for a full speed charge, but you get the point. 0-80% is the window of time during which the battery can take in the most power in the least amount of time and has become the benchmark on which OEMs flaunt their vehicles’ charging performance. Such is life.
We already knew the XC40 would arrive in a dual motor configuration and this was confirmed today, with the total system boasting an output of 408 horsepower | 300 kilowatts.The real fun comes to bear when we look at the torque, with the XC40 Recharge’s motors putting out a staggering 660 N-m of torque that is sure to slam drivers back into their seats when blasting off on a 0-60 mph run.
The XC40 is no slouch, with an estimated 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds. That makes the XC40 one of the fastest SUVs around and is sure to help all the soccer dads and corporate moms to all their meetings on time.
Update! Volvo Cars USA president and CEO Anders Gustafsson said that he expects the XC40 Recharge to come in at under $50,000 after rebates, according to CNET. That nets out to a retail price of around $60,000 before rebates. The price puts Volvo’s first fully electric vehicle priced just under Tesla’s Model X, but higher than the price of the smaller Tesla Model Y.
A Digital Vehicle For Today’s Digital Nomads
Now that we’ve laid the foundation for the XC40 Recharge as a thoroughbred Volvo and a true electric vehicle, we can talk about the icing on the cake from Volvo. The XC40 is also taking a page out of Tesla’s book when it comes to connectivity. “It’s the first Volvo to continuously get better over time because its software is updated over the air,” Volvo CTO Henrik Green said.
That connectivity and that capability lets Volvo update the vehicle’s operating system for infotainment and the like as well as the software responsible for the vehicle’s core functions. Think autonomous capabilities being pushed over time, the evolution of infotainment, updated maps, and more.
Surprisingly, Volvo was also able to squeeze more storage space out of the XC40 Recharge than it was able to fit into the internal combustion engine (ICE) variant. That is a shocking about-face for an auto industry hell bent on sub-optimized retrofits of ICE vehicles.
Volvo was able to accomplish this by optimizing the location of the motors, batteries and power electronics, and adding a frunk where the ICE used to live. Let’s hope it is larger and more functional than some of the frunks we’ve seen that are little more than glorified shoeboxes. Either way, it’s impressive that Volvo was able to buck the trend of decreasing interior space and actually squeeze out more storage from its first EV.
The First Chapter
The XC40 Recharge represents Volvo stripping off its clothes and busting a flying squirrel into a fjord full of batteries. It is clear that electric vehicles are increasingly a part of the DNA at Volvo and that it is shaping up to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of fully electric vehicles.
I for one cannot wait for the release of the XC40, because as a soccer dad, I’m eager to have a more functional fully electric vehicle to live life with.