Doom mongers might point to Volvo’s shaky future as owner Ford considers selling it. Yet such fundamentals aren’t preventing the firm’s engineers ploughing on, apparently unmoved. With a stubbornness borne from a belief that cutting edge cars will guarantee the Swedish firm’s safety, they have ambitious plans
There’s one that says the number of people killed or injured in or by a Volvo will be zero by 2020. Another dictates that the average carbon dioxide emissions across the fi rm’s fl eet will be 80g/km by that same year. And that’s where the electric C30 fi ts in. This car is set to go on sale in 2014, as one power option in an all-new small car range. And Volvo is already testing a prototype for it, the C30 Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). From the outside, it’s virtually impossible to tell the BEV apart from the regular DRIVe model. But under the bonnet this is a very different beast. There, two lithium ion VOLVO’S ELECTRIC DREAMS batteries and an 110bhp (82kW) electric motor lurk. Electric cars are usually characterised by the whistling sound their motors make but this model is impressively quiet. Volvo’s engineers have also worked hard to make the regenerative system that replenishes the batteries from energy wasted as you slow down as smooth as possible.
The result of their work is a motor that feels responsive and more than powerful enough for everyday driving. The only genuine difference between this and the regular 1.6-litre diesel version is a nose heaviness courtesy of the extra 100kg of batteries sitting over the front wheels. From the driver’s seat, you slot a regular shift lever into ‘Drive’ as you might in an automatic. However, Volvo has replaced the rev counter with a charge meter whose needle shows when you’re either charging or depleting the battery. And of course you plug it in to refuel. The downsides – and there are a couple – to Volvo’s electric dreams come in the perennial battery bugbears of range and cost. Under normal conditions the engineers reckon the battery is good for 75 to 95 miles. That’s fi ne for a commute, not so good for foreign holidays. And then there’s the cost. The price of lithium ion is tumbling, but Volvo still reckons the BEV will cost £6,500 more than a regular model. People, it adds, are willing to pay a premium for saving the planet. Let’s hope for them that’s still the case come 2014.