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Volvo thinks their electric cars can bring them to the top

$11 billion well spent?

By Jennifer Harrison May 24, 2016
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There was a time when the idea of electric cars that drive themselves sounded as silly as flying cars. Yet here we are, with fully electric cars available on the market and self-driving cars already being tested on our roads. Some manufacturers got ahead of the game early when it comes to electric drive trains and automation. Ford, Google, and Tesla are shaping themselves up to be big contenders. Now Volvo have announced new concepts that show a change of direction they hope will bring them to the top.

Volvo wasn’t doing so good during the recession and ended up being bought by the Chinese corporation Geely for $11 billion. The goal was to push ahead with new technologies and revolutionise the Swedish car manufacturer. It has to be said that Volvo have been more innovative than people realise, simply because a lot of their advanced technology hasn’t reached the market yet. In 2009 they showed off a fully electric car called the C90 that was used for research. The V60 was also one of the first plug-in hybrids to hit the market in 2011. Research is all well and good but now they’re ready to start shaking up the market.

Volvo recently unveiled a range of concept cars under what they call the 40 series. These are premium small cars that mix bold, “provocative” design with the latest technologies including electrification, automation, and increased connectivity. Their new small-car strategy is intended to transform the company and have them competing with top manufacturers within 4 years.

The cars will be built around a new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) that gives the designers and engineers more freedom. “Each member of our product family has its own distinct character, just like the members of a real family. CMA has helped us to capture something special, something youthful in our new concept cars. They have an energy, a disruptive and engaging urban character that makes them stand out among the crowd. This is the flavour of small Volvos to come,” said Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s Senior Vice President of Design.

Volvo wants to sell 1 million electric cars by 2025 and they’ll get started on them by 2019. “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 Håkan Samuelsson, President and Chief Executive of Volvo Cars. Although the first CMA cars will appear next year, they won’t be fully electric. First we’ll see a larger electric car in 2019 as part of the established Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which includes the new XC90.

It sounds like they know what they’re doing and it’s good that they’ve decided to play catch-up before it’s too late. We just wonder if they’ll put as much focus into automation as they are electrification and redesign. Companies like BMW are showing off concept cars that will be fully electric and autonomous. Here’s hoping the Swedish manufacturer can keep up.


Images: Volvo Cars