Volvo Unveils New Compact Car Platform Designed For Long-Range Electric Models, Plug-in Hybrid Drivetrains

It might be one of the smallest of global automakers by volume, selling just over half a million cars worldwide last year, but Swedish premium automaker Volvo has big plans for the next ten years.

In addition to Vision 2020 — its pledge to ensure that by 2020, nobody is seriously injured or killed in an accident involving a brand-new Volvo — Volvo also says that it wants to sell a total of up to one million electrified cars by 2025. And while the term ‘electrified’ is a little vague (it encompasses everything from all-electric vehicles through to plug-in hybrids and hybrids), Volvo is keen to prove that it can build desirable low-emissions vehicles just like rival European companies like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz.

Volvo's new concept cars include the same T-shaped headlights seen on other models.

Volvo’s new concept cars include the same T-shaped headlights seen on other models.

Despite producing a very competent fleet of prototype all-electric Volvo C30 electric hatchbacks that were as happy in southern Europe as they were the frigid ice lakes one hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, Volvo’s production plug-in vehicles have to date focused on plug-in hybrid rather than all-electric drivetrains. But earlier today, Volvo unveiled two brand new concept cars which preview a new compact car platform that it says have been designed from the ground up to accommodate both a high-efficiency ‘twin engine’ (three-cylinder gasoline engine and plug-in hybrid system) and an all-electric drivetrain capable of ranges in excess of 215 miles per charge.

Volvo says this CMA can use a 215-mile all-electric drivetrain.

Volvo says this CMA can use a 215-mile all-electric drivetrain.

Enter the Volvo Concept 40.1 and Volvo Concept 40.2, a concept SUV and concept sedan built on Volvo’s all-new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA). Just as Volvo’s SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform on which the 2016 Volvo XC90 is built is designed to underpin a whole range of mid and full-size Volvo models over the coming years, the new CMA platform is designed to underpin Volvo’s compact cars.  Which translated means a new platform on which next-generation 40-series and 60-series Volvo cars will be built.

It’s no surprise then that, as the name suggests, the Volvo Concept 40.1 and Volvo Concept 40.2 preview a next-generation refresh to the entire 40-series family, including the Volvo V40 wagon, S40 sedan and XC40 SUV. Picking up the same T-shaped LED headlights and large wheel arches we first saw on the 2016 Volvo XC90, the two concept cars are some of the best-looking designs we’ve seen from Volvo in a while.

Right now, both cars are technically concept vehicles, but it’s worth noting here that Volvo, unlike many automakers, tends to produce concept cars that are fairly close to production models. That’s party the Volvo way and partly a practical way to extract as much use out of every single concept car. After all, as Volvo has openly admitted in the past, it doesn’t have a lot of spare cash to spend on outlandish concept cars that will never make it into production.

Those limited funds have often been cited by Volvo as a reason why it hasn’t yet produced an all-electric car. It’s easy of course to label such claims as an excuse, especially when Volvo’s battery technology and drivetrain technology has already proven itself in multiple prototype vehicles. But it’s also worth noting that Volvo is insistent on sticking to its mantra of producing vehicles which do not compromise performance, luxury, or safety.

This is one good-looking Volvo

This is one good-looking Volvo

Five years ago, Volvo proved to us that it could produce a reliable, luxurious electric car that could function in temperatures that most electric cars would struggle to operate in. It even investigated a 22 kilowatt inductive charging system. Yet at the time, it said it was unable to produce a long-range battery pack that was not only affordable for customers, but cost-effective to produce.

Now, that seems to have changed, and we think it’s thanks to the same high capacity, energy-dense battery cells from LG Chem being used by GM in the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV. While Volvo hasn’t cited a particular source for its claimed 215-mile battery pack, it’s worth noting that it has used LG Chem in the past as battery supplier for its V60 and XC90 plug-in hybrids.

We’re sure some reading this news will dismiss Volvo as they do with other automakers with similar goals, primarily because Volvo is not Tesla. But as we’ve said before — and Elon Musk himself has noted — the transition to zero emission electric cars will require far more than just the efforts of Tesla.

In other words, the more the merrier.

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