Volvo’s first all-electric car leads the charge for an ambitious path toward sustainability
Volvo isn’t being shy about it: We need to change our ways to combat climate change issues the world faces today. Cars in particular—including, by Volvo’s admission, its own—are primary contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletion that pose a massive problem for society today.
Rather than take a fatalistic approach and suggest that we end driving entirely, Volvo thinks there’s a smarter, more holistic way. This new approach is better for the planet, but at the same time will add value to Volvo’s business—not to mention still produce fun-to-drive vehicles. Enter the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge.
Sharing a name and body with the XC40 compact crossover, Volvo’s first-ever all-electric car is based on its Compact Modular Architecture platform which underpins the XC40, Polestar 2, and Lynk & Co vehicles. In a low-slung “skateboard” layout, a liquid-cooled 78-kWh battery pack is mounted between an electric motor on each axle, providing a stout 408 hp and 487 lb-ft of torque. Volvo claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds, with a bit more than 200 miles (322 km) of range available between charges.
What’s more, the structural reinforcements surrounding the battery increase the stiffness of the vehicle, while the battery pack itself lowers the center of gravity compared to a gas-powered XC40. That said, it adds about 1,100 pounds (499 kg) to the weight of a comparable XC40 T5.
In terms of styling, it’s practically identical to the haute-couture XC40. Of course there’s no tailpipe, but the most notable change in design is the grille. Like what’s been seen on other electric vehicles, Volvo replaces open slats with a solid panel to emphasize the absence of an internal combustion engine. There’s still an open slit at the bottom to allow a small amount of airflow for front motor cooling.
Inside, it’s the same ultra-modern cabin as the XC40, until you get to the infotainment screen. Gone is the previous Sensus system. In its place is a new Google-developed Android interface offers new levels of connectivity between the apps a driver might use on their mobile phone and the vehicle itself.
For example, when the driver inputs a destination into Google Maps, it takes road curvature, elevation, and ambient temperature along the route to calculate the battery’s remaining charge upon arrival. It’ll show charging stations along the way, all part of the efforts to minimize range anxiety. At the same time, the car’s onboard cameras and sensors identify road signs and traffic conditions, and send that data back to Google to continually update the app for users on any device. Regardless of the app in use, the system promises to be intuitive for any device user, with the ability to continually improve with over-the-air updates.
Unlike some combustion-engine cars converted to electric power, there’s no compromise on interior volume or passenger comfort in the XC40 Recharge. In fact, it offers more cargo space than a gas-powered XC40: The absence of the engine enables a small frunk to be mounted under the hood.
Ultimately, this vehicle exists to advance environmental equilibrium in personal transportation, but this won’t be a one-and-done effort for Volvo—in fact, it’s only the beginning. With the XC40 Recharge as a starting point, the brand is committed to rolling out one new Recharge-branded all-electric vehicle every year through 2025. That will include a variant of the next-generation XC90 SUV, due to be unveiled in 2021. On top of those, Volvo will expand its offerings of plug-in hybrids across its range. To incentivize buyers, it’ll offer one year of free electricity for all these Recharge-series vehicles.
Volvo knows cars and drivers need to change to combat climate change, but recognizes that vehicle manufacturing is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, as well. To that end, it’s doubling down on using sustainable resources for components, particularly batteries. It’s already working with a battery supplier using recycled cobalt from consumer electronics. Other initiatives centered on sustainability in its supply chain and operations will contribute toward Volvo’s goal to be climate neutral in manufacturing by 2025, and as an entire brand by 2040.
All the while Volvo will offer the stylish, safe, and smart vehicles it established itself on, while advancing sustainability principles the entire industry can emulate. Expect the XC40 Recharge to hit the streets in late 2020.