Volvo has launched production of its first fully electric model, the XC40 Recharge, at its assembly plant in Ghent, Belgium, marking the start of what the Swedish automaker is billing as a “revolution” in its product line.
The first of the compact electric SUVs will reach U.S. showrooms towards the very end of the year, company officials said Thursday, with the first customer deliveries to follow shortly after the New Year.
The XC40 Recharge will become the first in a series of all-electric models coming from Volvo, one to debut every year through 2025, TheDetroitBureau.com reported this week while also noting that the automaker, a subsidiary of China’s Geely, will move down-market with a smaller BEV likely to be called the XC20.
“Today is a momentous occasion for Volvo Cars and for all employees here in Ghent,” said Javier Varela, head of global industrial operations and quality. “As we continue to electrify our line-up, the Ghent plant is a real trailblazer for our global manufacturing network.”
The XC40 Recharge represents a significant step towards Volvo Cars’ ambition to reduce its CO2 footprint per car by 40% by 2025 when it expects 50% of its global sales to consist of fully electric cars. The rest will be plug-in hybrids.
Demand for the XC40 Recharge is strong and while order books remain open, according to Volvo which claims that every one of the BEVs scheduled to be built this calendar year has already been reserved.
European customers will begin taking delivery this month, well ahead of deliveries to customers in other key markets, such as the U.S. and China.
As a fully electric version of the best-selling XC40 SUV, the first Volvo to win the prestigious European Car of the Year award, the XC40 Recharge is based on the brand’s compact modular architecture. That platform was developed in cooperation with Geely.
The Chinese parent now has developed an additional, all-electric platform, dubbed the ESA, which Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Britain’s Auto Express will be used for the planned XC20. A larger Volvo platform will be used for other upcoming BEVs.
The all-wheel drive XC40 Recharge is powered by a 75 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack projected to deliver a range of more than 400 kilometers or 250 miles based on the latest European test process. That’s expected to dip to just 200 miles once it goes through the tougher EPA cycle, a spokesman said this week.
Whether that will be enough is a significant question, many industry experts now believing that the sweet spot for consumers runs north of 250 and, perhaps, even 300 miles per charge. Volvo officials have said they expect the strongest demand for the Recharge will come in urban areas where there will be less need for extended range.
The EV powertrain is capable of producing 408 horsepower. The battery can charge to 80% of its capacity in approximately 40 mins using a 150 kilowatt fast-charger system, according to Volvo.
The XC40 Recharge will come with an onboard charger that can quickly be converted to handle both 120 and 240-volt power, though that will extend charging times significantly.
The vehicle becomes the first on the market to offer an Android-powered infotainment system which will offer customers personalization, improved and embedded Google technology and services, such as the Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store.
The XC40 Recharge also will be able to use smartphone-style over-the-air updates to download onboard software and maps.
Safety standards of the original XC40, Volvo Cars safety have been redesigned and reinforced, said Volvo, nothing that the battery pack is protected by a safety cage embedded in the middle of the car’s body structure. Its placement in the floor of the car also lowers the center of gravity of the car, providing the dual benefit of better handling and improved protection against roll-overs.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)