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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  • Martin Lacey

    Exciting to see Volvo enter the fully electric arena. Everyone I know who drives a Volvo highly recommends them. Then there is the roll out of the autonomous “driveme” program.

    Looks like competition in the 200+ mile EV sector is hotting up!

  • vdiv

    Can we have a story about other EV makers without mentioning Tesla? 🙂

    • Martin Lacey


      The only mention of Tesla was a citicism aimed at those naysayers who love Tesla and dismiss anything not Tesla.

  • Chris O

    Not going to happen because Volvo is no Tesla;) Seriously, this is not going to happen since Volvo is no Tesla. I doubt a small scale operation like Volvo needs an all electric car for compliance purposes so it’s not going to do a small production run that’s almost certainly a loss leader due to the high cost associated with lack of scale. The next thing would to gamble big time like Tesla is doing to do a large production series that’s either going to be very profitable if Volvo manages to appeal to the plug-hungry masses like Tesla is doing or it might bankrupt Volvo.

    I think Volvo will play it safe.

    • Martin Lacey

      Norway is aiming to be 100% zero emissions by 2025 ( Other countries will follow suite as the diesel-gate scandal broadens touching more and more manufacturers. I think Hybrid and all electric are the only options in the medium to long term. Volvo are playing a long game and need to diversify slowly as they have less cash available. As a brand they are world leaders in safety innovation and implementation. I see no reason why they can’t do the same in the hybrid/BEV arenas.

    • Electric Bill

      Chris: there is no “playing it safe”… you do not see the forest for the trees..

      There is no such thing as electric vehicle “niche market”… there are not going to be two competing vehicle platforms, where some people prefer one way and some prefer the other. One market is eating the other market’s lunch, and some of these car companies are starting to see it before others. The ones that come to the table last are the ones to starve, and the smart ones are acknowledging that. BMW has already said that in X number of years… by 2025, I think they said… their entire model line will be electric.

      For a company that is known for performance, BMW are lucid enough to see that nothing today can compete… NOTHING… against a highly efficient, seven-passenger sedan. Motor Trend has a stunning video on YouTube in which they very cleverly pit a high-end Alfa against a Tesla Model X on the drag strip… you see the two cars neck – and – neck down the strip… except only as they cross the finish line do you see the back end of the Tesla, which has a heavy metal trailer on it, towing an identical model of Alfa, proving that the only way the Alfa can hold its own against the Tesla is by weighing the EV down with an extra 4,000 lbs. of weight.

      Wake up: this is not simply a difference in power trains. ICE cars outnumber EVs for now, but as soon as any given individual understands the profound differences, there IS no contest: ICEs cannot compete and will be phased out very quickly.

      It’s a good thing you aren’t running Volvo, or you would be running them into insolvency.

      This is not about trends or opinions or lifestyles or preferences: ICE cars are dead already, it’s just that most people just don’t understand that yet and it will take another year or so for everyone to see it.

      Not to be beating a dead horse, as it were, but even Elon Musk was totally caught by surprise by the response to the Model 3: he only expected 20,000 preorders, but instead had 180,000 orders within 24 hours, and is now swamped with about half a million orders, with a thousand dollars deposit for each car they have never even seen or driven.

      By the time the Model 3 is actually on the street next year, there will be such a frenzy I expect we will see crazy, insane, LUDICROUS things happening– a secondary market similar to what has happened when the high-end Nike sneakers, and Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmos, iPods and Pet Rocks hit stores… some people were offering hundreds of times list price for them– remember? The frenzy will go one for MONTHS.


      I betcha!