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Volvo might electrify new V40 hatch

Electric future: Volvo may add an electric variant of the V40 hatch to its lineup after the initial range lands in Australia early next year.

Electric V40 hatchback “makes sense” to replace C30 in Volvo EV trials

Volvo logo28 Jun 2012

By RON HAMMERTON

VOLVO’S flirtation with electric cars might not end when the C30 hatchback is killed off later this year, with a full-electric version of the all-new V40 on the cards.

The Swedish company has produced 250 C30 Electrics to test the technology and customer reaction in real-world conditions in several European countries, plus China and the United States.

But with production of the three-door hatch ending at Volvo’s Ghent, Belgium, plant at the end of this year, the C30 Electric project is set to come to a screeching halt.

A few more C30 Electrics are due to be built before then, this time including new a new electric motor from German company Siemens.

Officially, that would appear to be the end of the experiment, which has struggled to prove a business case for the series production of electric cars.

Instead, Volvo is forging ahead with commercial volumes of its S60 Plug-in Hybrid sedan, which its sees as a better bet, at least in the medium term.

However, Volvo is not ruling out another all-electric car project involving the new V40, which goes on sale in petrol and diesel forms Europe this year ahead of its Australian roll-out in the first quarter of 2013.

18 center imageLeft: Volvo C30 Electric.

The Swedish company’s regional president for region two, which includes Australia, Wim Maes, told GoAuto he would not exclude the possibility of an all-electric V40.

“Would it make sense? It would make sense,” he said at the international V40 launch in Italy.

The C30 Electric was revealed in prototype form at the 2010 Detroit motor show, with field testing starting in late 2010.

Loaded with 290kg of lithium-ion batteries – half of them in the space usually taken by the fuel tank and the other half in the transmission tunnel – the C30 Electric can store 24kWh of power, enough for a driving range of between 120km and 140km.

The current Swiss-made Brusa motor produces 82kW of power, pushing the 1695kg car from zero to 100km/h in 10.9 seconds.

The vehicles are not sold, but leased for three years before being returned to Volvo. Driving data is collected in real time, with the company now holding a bank of between 35 and 40 years worth of driving data.

The cars can be charged using a 240-volt household plug in between six and eight hours, depending on amperage.

Volvo C30E commercial manager John Konnberg told GoAuto in Sweden that the once-swift progress in battery technology and manufacturing cost had slowed, casting doubt on the short-term future for full EVs.

“It is not as fast as we thought, unfortunately,” he said.

Like standard C30 hatchbacks, the Electric base car is built on the main production line in Ghent, Belgium, before being shipped to Volvo’s main Swedish base in Gothenburg to have the electric driveline and batteries fitted.

The car features a coasting mode, meaning the driveline disengages when the driver eases off the accelerator. Getting off the accelerator quickly engages the regenerative charging system to help top up the batteries.

The C30 Electric drivetrain could fit easily into the V40, but if Volvo takes this step, the motor will be supplied by Siemens – Volvo’s new German electric propulsion partner – while the batteries most likely will come from South Korea’s LG Chem, which also supplies General Motors, among others.

The new V40, which will be launched in only five-door hatchback form, is unlikely to get a plug-in hybrid powertrain any time soon.

Volvo believes larger vehicles such as the S60 and its SUVs make a better case for PHEV technology.

Next cab off the PHEV rank is expected to be the all-new XC90, due in 2014.

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All future models

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Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.