Volvo Reveals New Compact Platform with Plug-in Models in Mind

By · May 18, 2016

Volvo Concept 40.1

For the past few years, Volvo has repeatedly said that it has big plans for plug-in cars. So far, in terms of the US market, those pronouncements have resulted in sales of about 200 units a month of a single vehicle: the XC90 T8, which is a highly capable but expensive plug-in hybrid SUV. But producing a single small-volume model to date doesn’t mean Volvo won’t eventually get around to its bigger EV goals. The company today unveiled two sleek and sporty concept cars to introduce its new compact platform—a design that accommodates electric and plug-in hybrid batteries.

The Concept 40.1 and Concept 40.2 provide an indication what to expect from the company’s future small hatchback and SUV. “An electric powertrain program including both a new compact twin-engine plug-in hybrid as well as a pure electric car are central to the CMA architecture,” said Volvo president Håkan Samuelsson. (CMA stands for “compact modular architecture.)

Last month, Volvo—which owned by Geely, a Chinese auto company—said it aimed to rack up cumulative sales of 1 million electric vehicles globally by the year 2025.

Five years ago, PluginCars.com took a brief drive of Volvo’s previous C30 all-electric prototype, a compact car that promised a driving range of about 90 miles. That project never made it into production, indicating that Volvo believed that a small all-electric car would not be well received at the time.

The company’s strategy has apparently evolved. “We strongly believe electrification will now take off,” said Peter Mertens, Volvo senior vice-president for R&D. “We will do the next step soon. We believe that is the right strategy going into the end of this decade.” Part of that strategy will be to launch a pure electric vehicle—likely to be variant of its larger 90-series—in 2019. That EV is expected to offer about 215 miles of range on a single charge.

Samuelsson, Volvo’s chief executive, said he wants the company to be “at the forefront” of the drive to electrification. Yet, based on the concept platform unveiled today, it appears that Volvo is not primarily focusing on a long-range EV to compete with Tesla, Chevrolet or Audi. But rather, the company is pursuing a broad strategy to increase overall efficiency of its lineup, including offering pure electric and plug-in hybrid versions of its small cars.

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