Volvo was one of the first automakers to declare its plans to do something about carbon emissions. In 2017, the Swedish OEM announced that it was abandoning development of diesel engines.
A few weeks later, it promised that every new Volvo introduced from 2019 would be electrified in some form, whether that be as a mild hybrid, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or a battery electric vehicle.
On Wednesday, Volvo Cars President and CEO Håkan Samuelsson got even more concrete, saying that the company is aiming for plug-ins to make up 20% of all its new vehicle sales in 2020 and 50% by 2025. “Although you never really know how the customers will react,” he added (customers still have to want to buy the EVs it wants to sell). To accomplish that, Volvo is going to be launching a new BEV each year. Today in Los Angeles, we got introduced to the first of these—the new battery electric XC40 SUV.
The XC40 first appeared in 2017 as the first vehicle to use Volvo’s new Compact Modular Architecture. This is the same architecture that provides the building blocks for the forthcoming Polestar 2 BEV, as well as vehicles from Geely and Lynk & Co. Any XC40s you’ve seen on the road up until this point will have been conventional internal combustion engine-powered crossovers. But with this new variant, all that changes.
The new vehicle is called the XC40 Recharge, a label that Volvo will append to all its plug-in vehicles (both PHEV and BEV) going forward. Don’t think this is some kind of compliance car, with batteries shoehorned in wherever possible; CMA was designed at the outset to support BEVs as well as PHEVs and non-hybrids.
Visually, little sets the XC40 Recharge apart from its dinosaur-juice-powered siblings—the biggest giveaway is the blanked-off radiator grille, and keen eyes might spot the “Recharge” embossed into the black plastic of the C pillar. Under the skin, the XC40 Recharge powertrain looks exactly how you expect it might—an electric motor at either axle, and a lithium-ion battery pack in-between. Total power and torque output is 300kW (402hp) and 660Nm (487lb-ft), and the battery pack is well-sized at 78kWh.
Although there’s no EPA range yet, under Europe’s WLTP format, the XC40 Recharge can go 248 miles (400km) between charges; Volvo says the US range will be over 200 miles. Similarly, Volvo has yet to release a full set of stats for its new BEV, but it tells us that the car will recharge from 0-80% in 40 minutes, at up to 150kW. And for those who care, 0-62mph (0-100km/h) will take 4.9 seconds.
On the inside, there’s the usual classy Nordic interior design we expect from Volvo these days. The most obvious interior impact of going full BEV is under the hood, which now opens up to reveal a frunk for extra cargo storage. Unlike the shallow tray you’ll find under the nose of an Audi e-tron, this one actually looks relatively useful.
New sensor suite and Android infotainment
Drivers curious about tech will be interested to learn that the XC40’s digital systems are all new. The car’s suite sensors (radar, cameras, and ultrasonics) enable a new generation of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), developed by Zenuity (a joint venture between Volvo and Veoneer). The infotainment system is now fully Android-based, like the Polestar 2. The underlying software is the same across the brands, but Volvo and Polestar will each use unique UI layers, and the Android-based infotainment will start appearing in existing Volvo models as they get their mid-life refreshes.
Ödgärd Andersson, head of digital at Volvo, says that the choice to go with tight Android integration was down to the end user experience. “The maps and voice services are world-class,” she told Ars. “It’s what people expect, and those services will always get real-time updates.”
Additionally, using Android significantly lowers the barrier to development for third-party apps, something Volkswagen also cited as its reason for picking Android for its newest generation of infotainment.
Exact pricing has yet to be revealed, but Volvo told us that when the XC40 Recharge goes on sale in 2020, it should cost under $48,000 once the $7,500 IRS tax credit is taken into account.