Even as it prepares to launch its first battery-electric vehicle, the Volvo XC40 Recharge, the Swedish automaker is looking at opportunities for a smaller BEV that would likely be called the XC20.
The downsized electric SUV would migrate away from the platform the XC40 Recharge shares with the conventional, gas-powered version of the SUV, opting instead for a new battery-only architecture developed by Volvo’s parent, the Chinese automaker Geely, according to Håkan Samuelsson, the Swedish company’s CEO.
The precise timing of a Baby Volvo isn’t being announced, but Volvo has aggressive plans to electrify its line-up. Plug-in hybrids already account for a significant portion of its global sales and it wants pure electric models to generate fully half of its volume by 2025.
To get there, a U.S. spokesman told TheDetroitBureau.com this week, Volvo plans to add “one new BEV car every year for the next five years.” It appears these will be a mix including all-electric versions of existing products – such as the XC40 Recharge – as well as entirely new models, perhaps like an XC20.
“We will also use SEA,” Samuelsson revealed in an interview with Britain’s Auto Express, referring to the Sustainable Experience Architecture Geely recently unveiled. That platform could offer advantages over existing Volvo platforms which need to handle both electric drive and internal combustion engines – by necessity resulting in some compromises.
The SEA is a true skateboard-style design mounting batteries and motor drive technology under the floorboards which, in turn, offers more flexibility in the cabin design. Other manufacturers going this approach are able to recapture space normally reserved for the engine compartment to increase passenger and cargo room.
The upcoming Nissan Ariya and Ford Mach-E, for example, boast “class-above” interiors. This would make SEA particularly attractive for something below the size of the XC40.
“We’ll use it for a smaller car, where I think it’s very practical and smart for us to share that, so we can have a cost structure for a smaller car that’s very competitive,” Samuelsson said in his interview. “It’s difficult to push the CMA platform [the XC40’s chassis], which is a combination platform for EVs and combustion-engined cars, further down. So if you want to do a smaller car than XC40 then SEA can do it. We will use it for that.”
How far down-market Volvo might go is uncertain, though the company has trademarked not only the XC20 nameplate, but XC10 as well. The company is believed to be moving upmarket, as well, and is expected to add a new flagship, the XC100 SUV. Larger than the current XC90, and designed to compete with the likes of the BMW X7, it would use a revised version of Volvo’s current SPA platform.
According to Auto Express, this SPA2 architecture also will be shared with Volvo’s spinoff brand, the electrified Polestar.
One of the challenges Volvo faces with compromised platforms doing double-duty for IC engines and electric propulsion is finding enough room for batteries.
The new XC40 Recharge manages to just squeeze in a 78 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, enough for an estimated 200 miles per charge – though the EPA has yet to issue formal ratings. That’s notably less than a number of competing BEVs with many experts believing that 250 to 300 miles of range will soon be the floor for buyers.
Volvo is hoping that improved chemistry will help address that issue for vehicles using its current platforms, product specialist Jim Nichols told TheDetroitBureau.com, with energy density rising each year, allowing more power – and, thus, range — to be squeezed into the same sized battery pack.