Swedish-Chinese carmaker Volvo has given us a preliminary glimpse inside its very first zero emissions vehicle, the electric version of the XC40 SUV in the lead up to its unveil later in October.
As the 100% electric version of the SUV that won Volvo Car of the Year awards two years running, one from Wheels and the other from Car Sales, it will help fill a gap in traditionally designed electric SUVs that is currently wanting – and it is one that we can expect to see in Australia in the not too distant future.
With the likes of Tesla, Rivian and now Bollinger taking electric SUV and ute (aka pickup in the US) design to various extremes (think cyberpunk for the soon-to-be-revealed Tesla pickup, and straight out boxy Land Rover for Bollinger), there are sure to be many who are just happy to have a normal looking SUV that also happens to be electric.
And while on first impression the electric Volvo XC40 is exactly that, it is, in line with the typical Volvo focus on safety, what is on the inside that counts.
“Regardless of what drives a car forward, be it an electric machine or combustion engine, a Volvo must be safe,” said head of safety at Volvo Cars Malin Ekholm in a statement.
“The fully electric XC40 will be one of the safest cars we have ever built.”
Electric cars present unique challenges, but also some very nice opportunities, for car designers when it comes to safety.
“With electrification we of course remove the combustion engine and with that we need to redesign and rethink the front structure of the car,” says Ekholm.
Removal of the combustion engine is great – for one, its removal immediately means no more polluting and health-damaging emissions and particulate matter.
But it also means that there is no longer an extremely heavy metal object placed directly in front of the driver and passengers.
By reinforcing the frontal structure, Volvo says it has been able to maintain its high standards in safety.
A switch to electric drivetrain also means for most EVs a battery in the floor of the vehicle – which in itself adds a lower centre of gravity and hence significantly reduced chance of rollover.
However with the fire risks associated with lithium-ion batteries, Volvo has taken steps to endure the battery is kept secure with a specialised “safety cage” inside an in-built crumple zone.
“The fundamentals around safety are the same for this car as for any other Volvo. People are inside, and the car needs to be designed to be safe for them,” says Ekholm.
In addition to further reinforcing the car structure in the read as well as the front, Volvo have revealed that it will be kitting the electric XC40 with its new and advanced driver assistance systems that it has developed alongside Volvo/Veoneer joint venture Zenuity.
It appears Volvo – which is also spawning the premium electric Polestar 2 SUV via its eponymous offshoot Polestar – are keen to do this electric thing properly.
With a goal to have 50% all-electric vehicles under its banner by 2025, it will have some competition to deal with though, especially in the safety stakes.
The XC40 will likely not be directly in competition with the groundbreaking Model 3 pricewise, but it will more probably make a stand against the e-Tron.
The Volvo XC40 will be unveiled in mid-October and further details and specifications will be revealed in the lead up to its unveil.
Volvo Australia has said that both the XC40 and the Polestar 2 will be available in Australia from late 2020.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.