Volvo will begin on-road trials of the all-electric C30 coupe this autumn, exactly a year after the pilot car was revealed at the Paris motor show.
Between 250 and 300 electric C30s will be leased to local authorities and businesses for an everything-included fee of between £1175 and £1350 a month to help gather usage data.
The trials will begin in Sweden but will spread to other parts of Europe. London may be included, even though all the cars will be left-hand drive, because the electric C30 would be a particularly attractive proposition in the UK capital thanks to its congestion charge-exempt status.
The C30 was chosen to be Volvo’ electric-car pioneer because it is light, has good aerodynamics and is regarded as an ideal commuter car.
It is driven by a 110bhp rear-mounted electric motor developing a constant 163lb ft of torque, with a maximum of 266lb ft when full acceleration is needed. Standstill to 62mph is achieved in a claimed 10.5 seconds, while the maximum speed is 80mph.
Power comes from two 12 kilowatt-hour battery packs running along the spine of the car and ahead of the rear axle where the fuel tank would normally be located. They give the car a range of up to 95 miles, depending on how it is driven and outside influences such as the weather. Recharging from zero charge takes around 10 hours through a 240-volt socket.
The C30 was not designed with electrification in mind, its structure has had to be extensively adapted to take the 550 unique parts (out of a total of 3500) that differentiate it from a petrol or diesel version.
There’s an all-new aluminium frontal crash structure that compensates for the fact that there is no engine and gearbox to dissipate impact energy. The absence of an engine has it compensations, though, by giving more underbonnet clearance for pedestrian protection.
The car includes three climate control systems – one for the batteries, another to cool the motor and power electronics, and a third for the cabin.
There is also a unique instrument cluster that informs the driver of the amount of charge left in the batteries, whether the car is consuming energy or regenerating it during coasting and braking, and how much electricity is being consumed by ancillaries such as the air-conditioning.
Together with the driveline components, it all adds around 250-300 kilos to the weight of a regular C30.
Volvo has been especially keen to ensure the electric C30 is as safe as a petrol or diesel version. The battery locations were chosen to keep them away from the accident crumple zones, and if there is a crash the airbag sensors tell the batteries to shut down. A great deal of work has gone into ensuring the safety of the 400-volt electrical system in an accident, too.
The electric C30 will not go into production in the lifetime of the current model, but when the time comes for a replacement – almost certainly based on the latest Ford Focus platform, which has been designed with electrification in mind – it would seem crazy not to make it available.
The drive system is particularly impressive for its smooth, seamless and near-silent operation, especially because it is the first such effort from Volvo, while the performance is more than adequate for a commuter car. It is one of the best electric cars we’ve driven.
The only compromises come from having to package an electric powertrain in a car that was never designed for one – and even then they’re barely noticeable.
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