Promise kept: Volvo said it would launch a new electric vehicle each year for the next five years. That began this week with the announcement of the Volvo XC40 Recharge. It will ship in the fall of 2020 as a 2021 model. Volvo projects a 248-mile driving range based on European standards, which translates to something closer to 200-plus miles. This means comparisons with Tesla will begin quickly.
Recharge will be a Volvo sub-brand. The XC40 already exists as a combustion-engine compact SUV. The electrified XC40 will get a new infotainment system that will be powered by Android. Good. Volvo’s existing Sensus Connect system looks gorgeous, but not every user comprehends the interface even if it operates like the tablet it looks like (swiping left and right brings up the rest of the choices).
Shifting Infotainment to Android
In dropping its primarily in-house infotainment system, Sensus Connect, it’s charting a potentially risky path. Some fear using a third-party OS commoditizes the vehicle (it does, to an extent). At the same time, it’s hard to spend anywhere near the kinds of R&D dollars Google and Apple spend on voice recognition and the like. Also, there is the perception that Apple is a higher-end ecosystem than Google, and also true, to an extent: The higher-end cars such as Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz have owners who choose iPhones over Android devices by 3-1 or more, whereas Android phones overall outsell Apple.
But the reality is, drivers and passengers care far less about the software underpinning the infotainment system and far, far more about: Does it work? Is it intuitive? Anyway, Google can throw a skin over the top of the software to make it be Volvo-specific.
Also, iPhones will run just fine connected to an Android infotainment system. Volvo isn’t crazy. Just different.
XC40: Gas, PHEV, Soon EV
The XC40 Recharge looks like the superb combustion-engine small crossover we tested and rated highly last year, except with a covered front grille (there’s no radiator) and the left rear flank charging port. This is a subcompact vehicle, 174 inches long, and a snugger fit than Volvo’s XC60 crossover. A smaller, lighter vehicle needs less battery weight to go the same distance.
With the XC40 Recharge, Volvo will offer it with a gasoline (only) four-cylinder engine in several variants (turbocharger, turbo, and supercharger), as a plug-in hybrid, and a pure EV. The EV can be fitted with front and rear electric motors.
Volvo has already committed that every new car line it brings out will be electrified, meaning that there will be at least one version with battery power (EV) or battery assist (PHEV). Volvo also says it intends to cut its corporate carbon footprint by 2025.
Volvo projects the XC40 Recharge pricing to start at $ 55,000, less an available $ 7,500 tax credit for most buyers. The cheapest XC40 Volvo, the T4 Momentum, starts at $ 34,000.
Battery Safety Cage
Volvo builds the lithium-ion battery pack inside a metal shell it calls the Safety Cage, to highlight the company’s commitment to safety dating back to the industry’s first three-point shoulder harness safety belt in 1959.
Interestingly, Volvo originally planned for a smaller battery. Maybe there is no Swedish phrase comparable to range anxiety. Then the Tesla Model 3 happened, and its range (one model) offered 300-plus. Volvo went back to battery suppliers LG Chem of South Korea and CTAL of China, according to The Verge, to add additional modules to the battery pack. Which is good because Americans, at least, want long-range vehicles.
To sweeten the deal, Volvo says it will provide the first year of electricity free. Based on how many kilowatt-hours the car consumes, Volvo will refund the average cost of electricity (about 12 cents per kWh in the US).
The Paragraph Lawyers Love to Read
Is it confusing to announce one car for the world when the various regions and countries have their own standards, and you have to make sure no one gets the wrong power or range ratings? Here’s part of Volvo’s announcement:
The XC40 Recharge is everything customers expect from a Volvo, with the addition of a state-of-the-art, fully electric all-wheel drive powertrain that offers a range of over 400 km (WLTP) [200 miles in U.S.**] on a single charge and output of 408hp [402 hp in U.S.]. The battery charges to 80 % of its capacity in 40 mins on a fast-charger system. ***
* Availability of features, offers and services described above may vary, depending on market. ** This not based on EPA testing. 200-mile combined driving range rating. Based on EU WLTP testing under controlled conditions for a new vehicle. Your range will vary depending on driving conditions, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, battery-package/condition, and other factors. ***Fast charging DC up to 150 kW. Charging times will vary and are dependent on factors such as outdoor temperature, current battery temperature, charging equipment, battery condition and car condition.
Volvo Recharge will be the company’s electrified sub-brand. There’s also Polestar, a performance sub-brand that is evolving to be a performance electrified sub-brand (PHEVs count) to an electric sub-brand, with the Polestar 2 sedan being the first mass-production variant.