The Volvo E-volution
At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan sent shockwaves throughout the music world by going electric. It wasn’t long before the boos died down, the doubts subsided, and everyone else began to follow suit.
Sometimes, to bring about real change, you have to make a statement. So, in 2017, that’s exactly what Volvo Cars did – becoming the first car maker to announce it would not only fully embrace new electric-car technology but plan its future around it.
I Roll takes a look at the remarkable evolution of Volvo models that have helped take the car maker towards a future showroom comprising mild hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery electric (EV) vehicles.
VOLVO ELECTRIC CAR CONCEPT
The oil crises of the 1970s forced the automotive industry to start thinking differently and begin developing new technologies that improved sustainability and efficiency rather than just performance.
The electric cars of the 1970s, however, were a perfect example of how great ideas can be hatched too soon – hampered by the technological limitations of the time.
In the 1970s, very few batteries were suitable for electric propulsion. As a result, the electric cars produced back then performed more like golf buggies.
All great innovations have to start somewhere, and in 1976 Volvo Cars presented its first foray into the brave new world of electrification – the Volvo Electric Car concept.
It was actually two electrically driven concept vehicles designed for efficient city transport – one for personal use and the other intended as a mail delivery vehicle. Looking at them today, they seem a little dated. But their unveiling showcased dreams of a future we are only now close to realising.
VOLVO ECC (ENVIRONMENTAL CONCEPT CAR)
The ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mandate had just been introduced in the 1990s when
Volvo Cars responded by creating the ECC (Environmental Concept Car) – a PHEV equipped with a gas turbine and high-speed generator.
When it was displayed at the 1992 Paris motor show, the ECC attracted enormous attention.
This was no pie-in-the-sky prototype; this was a safe, spacious and environmentally friendly family car – ideal for the demands of the 21st century. And when the first-generation S80 was launched a few years later, the influence of the ECC was there for all to see.
Slowly but surely, the idea of owning an electric car was not only becoming acceptable, it was becoming desirable.
VOLVO RE-CHARGE CONCEPT
In 2007, Volvo Cars revealed the ReCharge Concept car. The timing couldn’t have been better as interest in electric cars was once again on the rise – helped by an evolution of battery technology that must also be credited to smartphone and laptop developers.
This resurgence in interest was due mainly to the availability of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These batteries not only delivered a driving range of 150km, they were practical, well-proportioned and didn’t sacrifice valuable seating space.
VOLVO ELECTRIC C30
In 2008, spurred on by the renewed interest in electric cars, Volvo Cars decided to produce a fully competitive electric vehicle and launch it in the luxury segment. It was decided that the best possible model for this purpose would be the C30 hatchback. So, a limited number of cars went into production and were leased out to interested customers. Feedback from these customers was then gathered and used to help further develop Volvo Cars’ electrification technology.
V60 PLUG-IN HYBRID
In 2008, a global economic crisis unfolded that once again forced the automobile industry to adapt and come up with innovative new solutions to meet the needs of the times. It led to Volvo’s world-first Volvo V60 PHEV, which was launched in 2012 – offering the best all-round benefits for both drivers and the environment.
With an official fuel consumption figure of just 1.9 litres per 100km, not even the world’s most famous hybrid car could match its efficiency.
TWIN ENGINES AND THE FUTURE
A range of Volvo models are today available with Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrains that deliver outstanding fuel economy, ultra-low emissions and excellent performance.
They will continue to form part of the company’s electrification strategy – joined by mild hybrid vehicles and pure EVs as Volvo aims to put one million electrified cars on the road by 2025 and aim for fully electric cars to make up 50 per cent of sales by the same year.
Since Volvo Cars first decided to plug in, attitudes towards electric cars have changed. Doubts have subsided, people are more environmentally aware, and people have embraced the potential benefits and realised that there is no need to compromise when it comes to performance.
As Bob Dylan would say, “The times they are a-changin’.”