Recharged and ready

Volvo has recently pushed ‘go’ on its all-encompassing plan to transform into a full electric-only manufacturer inside the next decade.

WORDS CAMERON OFFICER
PHOTOS SIMEON PATIENCE

While the first battery electric model is still a few months away from our shores, the XC40 Recharge PHEV offers a glimpse of what is just around the corner. Masters of understated Nordic minimalism, Volvo has been uncharacteristically loud of late. But all for a good cause I hasten to add. More than that: for a global one. The Swedish manufacturer has announced a commitment to becoming a leader in the premium electric car market and plans to transform itself into a wholly electric car company by 2030.

Over the next five years, Volvo will launch a full batteryelectric model every year, as it seeks to make all-electric cars 50% of its global sales by 2025, with the rest being hybrid versions of existing models, such as the stylish XC40 Recharge you see on these pages. Get familiar with the ‘Recharge’ suffix now: moving forward, this will be the overarching name for all chargeable Volvos with either a full electric or plug-in hybrid powertrain. The name kind of fits neatly into the Volvo lexicon anyway, when you consider the impact of the brick-tacular 850R, or the svelte look of any modern Volvo draped in R-Design finery. ‘R’ for ‘Recharge’ too.

However, this particular addition to the brand nameplate signifies something far greater than model grades. This is the biggest wholesale statement of intent Volvo has made since 1959, when it introduced an invention called the seatbelt to its model line and declared the safety device would be integral equipment from that point on. As if to prove the all-electric deadline announcement was more than just marketing bluster, Volvo immediately followed it up with news that its first ground-up electric model – the C40 Recharge compact crossover – will soon appear.

Potentially available in New Zealand by the middle of next year, the C40 Recharge looks to imbue all of that stylish Scandi character Volvo fans admire, promises 400km-plus battery range and is the first in the promised series of BEV halo models due between now and the end of this decade. But before the main course commences, here’s a rather tasty appetiser. Aside from the presence of a plug, the car you see on these pages is essentially the XC40 Recharge, albeit in plug-in hybrid (PHEV) form. New Zealand will receive the full-battery electric XC40 Recharge later this year, or possibly early next.

The absolute cleverest thing the XC40 Recharge PHEV does is retain all the features that have made the XC40 compact crossover one of Volvo’s best-selling models. Elegant Scandinavian design language? Ja. Utility and functionality? Absolut. A stylishly unfussy interior and usable infotainment features? Självklart!

 

The XC40 Recharge EV will feature a few differences from the PHEV model. For a start, it will debut an all-new driver interface specifically designed for Volvo’s electric cars. Naturally, it will also dispense entirely with the petrol motor up front, leaving a 30-litre cavity which acts as a second cargo compartment under the front bonnet for extra load space. Next-generation safety systems will also be introduced for the first time in the new BEV model; its innovative structure designed to protect both the vehicle’s battery and those travelling in it in the event of a collision.

In fact, the XC40 Recharge’s electric powertrain has been integrated into the body structure to realise better distribution of collision forces away from the cabin in an accident, reducing strain on the car’s occupants. Because of the scalable nature of the platforms underpinning forthcoming Volvo electric models, they can also be developed further for future introduction of autonomous drive technology.

And that’s another thing to shout about.

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