Confirming a recent report by TheDetroitBureau.com, Volvo’s CEO said the automaker is developing a new battery-electric vehicle that will slot in under the recently launched XC40 Recharge.
The long-range BEV is part of a broader push into electrification by the Swedish automaker and its Chinese parent company, and the yet unnamed model will share the new electric platform jointly developed by Volvo and Geely Holdings, the Sustainable Experience Architecture, or SEA.
Volvo plans to launch one electric car each year and though CEO Hakan Samuelsson did not lay out a specific timetable during a series of recent interviews with various news outlets, it appears the downsized BEV could reach market as early as next year.
For its part, Geely’s Chinese-based Lynk & Co. brand has signaled it will use the new SEA platform for a production version of its Zero Concept in 2021. It is believed to be similar in size to the model Volvo is working on.
Details of the new Volvo won’t be revealed until March. But Samuelsson appeared to indicate it may be less of a classic SUV/CUV design than the XC40 Recharge in an interview with Britain’s Auto Express,
“I think the SUVs in the future might not be exactly as SUVs are today,” he said. “Ground clearance and off-roading capability are probably not the most important things now.”
While ute-like designs have become the most popular body style in most major markets, fully electric vehicles have a lot of flexibility since they mount their motors, battery packs and other key drivetrain components within their skateboard-like platforms, under the load floor. As was first demonstrated by the Jaguar I-Pace, that allows some space normally devoted to the engine compartment to be repurposed for passengers and cargo.
The smaller Volvo it is likely to be less expensive than the XC40 Recharge which, in the U.S., starts at $53,990 – plus $995 in delivery fees. But Samuelsson signaled that his company isn’t planning to move into mainstream territory.
“For Volvo to be profitable we need to focus on higher price, more premium car segments,” he said in an interview with Automotive News.
The development of the SEA platform is critical for Volvo and the rest of the Geely family which includes the Lotus and Polestar brands and even LEVC, which produces London taxi cabs.
The SEA platform will have significant flexibility in terms of the size and shape of future vehicles it can accommodate. But it will serve a wide range of small and medium products, even larger sedans and commercial vehicles.
One of the unanswered questions is how it will fit in with the CMA, or Compact Modular Architecture, the first electrified platform developed by Volvo and Geely, which underpins not only the XC Recharge but the all-electric version of the flagship Volvo XC90 set to debut in 2022.
The SEA, however, is believed to be focused exclusively on pure battery-electric products, a growing industry trend. The
CMA was developed to handle a variety of different drivetrain combinations, including not only BEVs but also plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs.
Volvo has indicated plans to generate half of its global sales from battery-based models by 2025.
Geely, for its part, also has aggressive electrification targets driven, in part, by the Chinese government’s New Energy Vehicle program which last month set a target of reaching 25% of that country’s new vehicle sales by 2025, up from 5% today.
Geely said recently that the development program responsible for the SEA platform cost $2.6 billion. The carmaker also is setting up a new factory in China specifically to produce battery-electric vehicles for its various brands.
Separately, Geely and Daimler AG last month announced plans to jointly develop a line of “highly efficient” new hybrid powertrains. “Clean and highly efficient powertrains are integral to our core competitiveness,” Geely President An Conghui said in a jointly released statement.