Electric Volvo C30 advances

* Electric C30 with 90-mile range * At Detroit motor show * Call for subsidies to encourage buyers...

Electric Volvo C30 advances

An updated Volvo C30 electric car will be unveiled at the Detroit motor show in January.

The first prototype, which we drove in September, identified several challenges for Volvo to confront, including battery packaging and safety issues.

'We have addressed these challenges without compromising the C30's personality', said Lennart Stegland, director of Volvo Cars Special Vehicles, 'I am very happy with the result. The electric C30 that will be in Detroit is a much more complete product.'

Next step: factory-built test cars
Volvo will now build a fleet of test cars, which will be ready for a two-year trial that's scheduled to begin in 2011. The trial will assess both the technical performance of the cars and study users' behaviour.

This will help Volvo assess in what way an electric-car infrastructure needs to be developed to support such vehicles.

What's new inside?
Although the electric C30 looks like the conventionally fuelled model, the car's dials show only road speed and energy consumption.

How does it drive?
With no gears the power is delivered seamlessly and silently. What's more, the engine emits no carbon dioxide while being driven and uses about a quarter of the energy of a fossil-fuelled car.

Batteries can be recharged through a domestic power socket, or at special roadside charging points. A full charge takes eight hours.

Top speed is about 81mph and the car has a range of 90 miles, which Volvo says covers the daily transport needs of 90% of European motorists.

Call for subsidies to help win over buyers
While Volvo is determined that its electric car will be as safe as the conventionally powered model, it acknowledges that this won't be all that's required to persuade drivers to go electric.

Paul Gustavvson, director of Electrification Strategy at Volvo, said: 'Offering an attractive car is not enough. What will also be needed is a system of subsidies to make the electric car's expensive battery technology financially viable for buyers.'