Volvo Cars unveiled the latest next-generation vehicle -- the Volvo C30 -- during the Detroit Motor Show held in January 2010. This battery and electric powered model was first displayed in 2009, showing the brand’s current development process when it comes to an electric prototype that could be driven. The C30 has a new battery that has better packaging, with full instrumentation, and complete interior.
The C30 is electric but it has several similarities with the standard Volvo C30. It has four seats and offers the same features in terms of comfort, safety, and space. According to Lennart Stegland, who is Director of Volvo Cars Special Vehicles, the first prototype ensured that the brand would be able to determine what the technological challenges were, especially on safety issues and battery packaging. Stegland related that they have managed to address these different challenges without the need to compromise the C30’s personality.
The electric version of the C30 presented during the show is therefore a complete product, Stegland added. The next phase involved conducting a series of tests on the factory-built versions. The company selected different users that got the chance to drive Volvo’s test fleet for a two-year trial period that started in 2011. The purpose was to be able to gain the needed input in both the technical aspect and the behavioural aspect too.
In addition, the project is supported by the Swedish Energy Agency with a SEK150 million contribution. A car that has an internal combustion engine has different attributes compared to one that runs on pure electricity. By having the test runs, the company’s experts would be able to know how the selected users were able to manage these differences. Stegland said that the data retrieved will give the company the needed information to help in the development of its electric cars.
Furthermore, Stegland added that it would also give the necessary input that the brand will need for the infrastructure and help define which services will be needed to make electric cars the first choice in future transport. One of the clear differences between the electric version and the standard one is related to the new instruments, particularly the gauges and graphics.
The instrument panel is user-friendly and the display is limited to the current road speed and the amount of energy consumed. There are other new symbols in numerical form integrated like the gauge of the battery charge status in addition to many other information. Another difference is the driving experience.
The electric C30 does not have any gears and with the motor’s power delivered in a seamless manner, the car can immediately get the full power needed. It can cruise silently on the road, making it a very special experience. Stegland shared that this is because power is provided right away.
Stegland added that the company took its time to make sure that the transmission provided the needed safety and comfort for the driver while ensuring that the battery is working at its optimum regardless of the speed.
The electric C30 has no emissions compared to the regular model. Due to the electric motor, the energy consumption is merely a quarter compared to the one that runs on fossil fuels. This energy efficiency means that the demand for electric cars will expectedly increase given that the price of fuel will rise and the standard for lower CO2 emission will become even more stringent.
The C30 displayed during the Detroit show makes use of Lithium-Ion batteries which can be recharged in two ways: through a power socket in the house or at special charging stations found on the roadside. Fully-charging the battery would need around eight hours. When renewable electricity is the one used to charge the car, the total CO2 emissions is almost non-existent.
When fully charged, the battery allows a top speed of 81 mph with 0 to 60 mph acceleration in barely 11 seconds. Maximum range is estimated to reach a maximum of 150 kilometers. This means that it can meet the daily transport needs of around 90% of motorists in the European continent.
While the electric motor is placed beneath the bonnet, the 24 kWh batteries have been installed in the car’s propshaft tunnel plus in the area where the fuel tank is placed. Due to this, it is well beyond the passenger compartment and away from any of the deformation zone.
Volvo Cars Senior Safety Advisor Thomas Broberg disclosed that the batteries are encapsulated with the structure that surrounds it having been reinforced. Broberg added that this symbolizes another important challenge when it comes to manufacturing the safest cars.
Broberg assured however that the new Volvo is just as safe as all of its other models since it has the same standards as it relates to driving, ownership, and even protection when an accident occurs. There are other factors that make electric cars appealing.
According to Paul Gustavsson, Volvo Cars Director of Electrification Strategy, the goal is for consumers to feel that electric cars are attractive to own and drive. Electric cars must not only be safe and comfortable, but must give the same performance as cars that use other sources of power, Gustavsson added.
The company though continues to trust this technology and with field tests being conducted, it hopes to show that there is a great market potential for electric cars, Gustavsson shared. Having an attractive car is never enough, Gustavsson said, as a system of subsidies is needed to ensure that the rather expensive battery technology is made affordable for many buyers.
The brand is still in its journey on the goal of zero emissions and it hopes that authorities and the whole of society will be there to support them in the "Drive Towards Zero", Gustavsson concluded.