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Autonomous Vehicles

First Drive: The Fully Electric Volvo C40 Recharge Twin

Volvo is charging into the electrified vehicle space as part of its quest to achieve a sales target of 50% battery electric vehicles by 2025 and 100% of total vehicle sales being fully electric by 2030. The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin crossover was the company’s first fully electric vehicle and has been on the market for about a year now.

To achieve its ambitious plug in vehicle sales target, Volvo needs to convert or introduce replacements for all of its combustion vehicles in the coming years and to that end, the company has introduced the Volvo C40 Recharge Twin. The new coupe sits at essentially the same height as the XC40 Recharge crossover, but sports a new low slung panoramic roof that gives it a wider, more aggressive posture. The higher seating position translates to better visibility of the road out front and to the sides of the vehicle though the chopped top of the C40 Recharge Twin does diminish visibility out the rear of the vehicle.

Volvo invited us to Belgium to drive the new C40 Recharge Twin in its dual motor, all-wheel drive configuration. The event centered around Volvo’s factory in Ghent, Belgium, where both the XC40 Recharge and the C40 Recharge Twin are manufactured. The C40 Recharge Twin isn’t some far off production vehicle, having formally moved into production only a few days prior to our visit. Unfortunately, we were not able to actually tour the factory as planned due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the journey was memorable just the same.

Disclaimer: Volvo covered travel and accommodations for the author to attend the C40 Recharge Twin event in Belgium.

My time with the vehicle kicked off with a brief overview of the vehicle, the integrated navigation system, and after a quick review of the route, I was off to the races. After weaving my way out of the tightly wound parking facility, I merged onto the road and, as if a coiled spring held under tension for too long, the C40 Recharge Twin blasted right out onto the road.

As I wound my way through the center of Brussels towards the highway, the narrow streets chafed on the car as my curiosity begged me to pound on the pedal. By American standards, the C40 Recharge Twin is a compact vehicle, but the narrow roads of the ancient villages sprinkled across the Belgian landscape felt tight as I pined for some open road to let the C40 Recharge run free on.

Breaking free of city traffic, the highway out of the city center let me cut the C40 Recharge Twin loose, opening up the upper end of its acceleration range for the first time. Its twin motors did not disappoint, delivering immense amounts of power that, for the first time in my driving life, often made me back off the pedal long before the car ran out of power. After a few minutes of boosting through traffic and around cab-over semi trucks, I settled into a more traditional highway routine.

Cruising amongst mixed passenger vehicle and heavy truck traffic, the C40 Recharge Twin was a natural. Driving in manual mode is effortless and the combination of Volvo’s impressive build quality and the silent electric powertrain makes for a serene experience. The only thing better than driving the C40 Recharge Twin is letting it do some of the heavy lifting.

Volvo’s Pilot Assist does just that, controlling both the front to back position of the vehicle relative to other vehicles with an adaptive cruise control function as well as seamlessly assisting in keeping the vehicle centered in the lane with small steering inputs.

Adaptive cruise control is common in modern vehicles, but it still feels a bit like magic to drive with it. Paired with steering assistance, the Pilot Assist suite feels extremely intuitive and helpful. The driver is still fully responsible for steering the vehicle and ensuring safe passage, but in my roughly 5 hours with the vehicle, the system performed flawlessly without anything that required my intervention.

The system works by using cameras to look ahead of the vehicle to identify the lane lines. With its bearings established, the system actively steers the vehicle to keep it centered between the lane lines. In areas with less consistent lane line marking or completely absent lane markings, it’s likely the system won’t be as helpful or might not function at all, but in our testing, it proved extremely competent.

This is likely because most of my driving was on highways which are some of the most standardized, boring, and predictable environments to drive in. I used it a few times on local streets but generally did not use it in town as the system clearly is not designed for that environment.

Pilot Assist demands input from the driver in the form of torsional pressure on the steering wheel, much like Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving systems do. It starts with a gradual nag on the display and escalates with audible alerts. If no driver input is provided, the system shuts off, though this wasn’t something I tested myself.

The system will not change lanes automatically, instead opting to temporarily disengage when the blinker is activated, allowing the driver to make a lane change. When the blinker is turned off, Pilot Assist seamlessly picks up again, finding the lane lines and centering itself in the lane. It is one of the most intuitive advanced driver assistance system I’ve used and second to only Tesla’s Full Self Driving system in terms of its current capability.

The C40 Recharge Twin boasts a well designed single pedal driving system that can bring the vehicle to a complete stop. It makes it easy to drive the vehicle in most normal conditions without having to touch the brake pedal.

As with most battery electric vehicles, the low center of mass of the battery makes for a more stable ride when taking tight corners and just cruising around town. Somewhat surprisingly, the high torque of the twin motors is so strong that it does cause some front to back body roll when rapidly accelerating and decelerating.

The large center display is the primary interface for interacting with the vehicle. The C40 Recharge Twin comes with Google’s infotainment system installed from the factory and it is a significant improvement over previous iterations we’ve played with. The integrated maps functionality works just like it does on modern smartphones with the ability to display the current navigation route on the gauge cluster display behind the steering wheel.

Beyond maps, the system comes with the full Google Assistant, Spotify, and more apps that can be installed via the Google Play store. The system was designed from day one as a fully connected system and as such, it is able to stream music from the web, search maps, and even change a number of vehicle settings with voice commands.

While driving on the freeway Google let me know about an upcoming delay along the navigational route due to some congestion. Sure enough a few minutes later the freeway slowed down rapidly with brake lights dotting the horizon.

When it comes time to charge, Google Maps makes it easy to search for charge points nearby. Unfortunately, the system does not integrate charging stops into the navigation route. It’s not a huge chore to add them manually, but this is definitely an area that could be improved via a software update in the future.

The C40 Recharge Twin is capable of tapping into DC fast charging stations at up to 150 kW, recharging its onboard battery from 10-80% in 37 minutes. On a 48 amp level 2 AC charger, it will do the same in around 8 hours.

It’s bold new exterior lines cut out a path for Volvo’s vehicles moving forward as it charges into the fully electric future while still being clearly identifiable as a Volvo.

Inside the car, the interior is refined and polished. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Volvo with a blend of durable sophistication and responsibly sourced materials. To that end, the Volvo C40 Recharge Twin is the first Volvo sporting no leather in the interior. Not that you’d be able to tell. The synthetic leather seats look and feel exactly like the animal skin-clad products we’ve viewed as premium for decades.

Volvo plans to introduce leather-free interiors in all of its fully electric vehicles moving forward in a stand against the wide range of negative effects of animal agriculture. It’s one part of a broader push by the company to introduce more sustainable interior materials including wool, recycled plastics, and other materials moving forward.

A massive panoramic glass roof up top improves headroom in the chop top coupe and opens up views overhead. It’s one of many refinements in the vehicle that establish the C40 Recharge Twin as a competitive, modern electric vehicle.

Pairing a fully electric drivetrain with Volvo’s relentless focus on safety and quality results in perhaps the most refined electric vehicle we’ve driven to date. Its refined interior and sound dampening bring a level of quality and comfort that doesn’t exist in my Tesla Model 3.

Overall, the new Dual Motor Volvo C40 Recharge Twin is an exciting new battery electric vehicle that competes with and bests many of the top competitors in its class today. In fact, in many meaningful ways, it raises the bar. I love the leather free interior and the focus on recycled fabrics. It’s where we need to go and it felt amazing. The performance of the C40 took my breath away and, outside of a race track, I honestly couldn’t imaging needing or wanting more power than this vehicle is packing. The future is electric and Volvo is clearly building vehicles to put it in a leadership position in that future.

At 225 miles of range per charge, it’s not going to win any medals for range, but if we’re honest, that’s more than sufficient for the vast majority of drivers. Similarly, 150kW DC fast charging is not competitive with the 250kW, 350kW, and higher charging speeds we’re hearing about from charging network operators but it is still extremely functional.

The dual motor Volvo C40 Recharge Twin still qualifies for the full federal EV tax credit in the US, taking an additional $7,500 off of its price tag of $58,750 + $1,095 destination fee. It is sure to appeal to buyers around the world looking for a fully electric vehicle with all the comforts and safety they’ve come to expect from Volvo. Its high stance and low slung roof blur the line between the coupe and the ever popular crossover class in a combination that should appeal to buyers.

Specs

  • Powertrain: front and rear 150 kW electric motors
  • Power: 300 kW / 402 hp, 487 ft-lb torque
  • Battery: 78 kWh
  • Range: 225 mile range per charge
  • Acceleration: 0-60 in 4.5 seconds
  • DC Fast Charging: 150 kW peak delivering a charge from 10-80% in 37 minutes
  • AC Charging: Recharges from 10-80% in 8 hours
  • Warranty: 4 years / 50,000 miles
  • High Voltage Battery Warranty: 8 years / 100,000 mile

All images credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

 
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Written By

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in BYD, SolarEdge, and Tesla.

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