Volvo has already put its reputation behind its autonomous car program last week, and now it’s laying down its electric vehicle plans as well. Volvo announced that it will build its first fully electric car and sell it by 2019 as part of an eventual full range of small cars. It’s planning for 10 percent of its sales to be EVs in the first years afterward.
“We believe that the time has come for electrified cars to cease being a niche technology and enter the mainstream,” Volvo Cars president and CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in a statement. “We are confident that by 2020, 10 percent of Volvo’s global sales will be electrified cars.”
Today the automaker sells plug-in hybrid versions of its larger XC90 (pictured above) and V60, but that’s it. So this would be a pretty big jump for Volvo, both to fully electric drivetrains and to smaller cars.
“We have learned a lot about how people use cars with electrification thanks to our current product offer,” said Dr Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President for Research and Development. “Our research has shown that people are driving our Twin Engine cars in electric mode around 50 per cent of the time, meaning our plug-in hybrids already offer a real alternative to conventional powertrain systems.” That’s probably pushing it a bit.
Still, the XC90 has plenty of safety tech to begin with, and some of it is a cut above what you get from competitors. It can hit the brakes in case a car in front stops short or if a pedestrian walking out into the street without looking, for example. The plug-in hybrid powertrain in the XC90 T8 consists of a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, an 87 hp motor in the back, a smaller 46 hp electric motor in the front, and the main turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder gas engine in the front putting out 318 horsepower. It’s also the only three-row plug-in hybrid SUV on the market.
It’s interesting to see how much Volvo is looking to reestablish itself. The automaker’s stagnation in recent years has been sad and mostly self-inflicted, thanks mostly to an aging product line. As someone that grew up in the 1980s, this author remember full well how Volvo dominated the automotive advertising market with its promises of the safest cars on the road. Seeing blocky 740 Turbo Wagons and stoic 240s on the road was commonplace. It would be good to see that again with a full-blown range of cutting-range electric cars; the question is whether the company can pull off such a turnaround.
Last year, Volvo unveiled a neodymium magnetic road system design that could greatly simplify the design and operation of future self-driving cars.