Certain things come to mind (for better or for worse -- usually better) when you say the word Volvo. Safety, of course. Solidity and reliability. And lately, clean, Scandinavian design. Crisp edges and sweeping curves. And interiors inspired by sleek, modern furniture, and home electronics. Now you can add "green." Volvo
has always been an environmentally responsible company and produces many models that deliver low emissions and competitive fuel-economy performance. Volvo
is now testing the waters of pure electric vehicle development and production.
Rather than develop an all-new platform, as did Chevrolet
with the Volt and Toyota
with the Prius, company management felt it had an ideally suited chassis architecture already in production in its lineup -- the artsy, design-savvy VOLVO C30
coupe. Lennart Stegland, president of Special Vehicles for Volvo
Cars, told us the C30's packaging gave them and Volvo's Ener1 partnership exactly the right foundation for a high-tech, purpose-developed, lithium-ion battery system, adequately sized electric motor, and all the controllers and wiring needed to do the job.
The unique Li-Io battery system is made in the USA, the work of Indiana's Enerdel. Each battery cell is about as tall and wide as the screen on a Kindle E-reader and just a few millimeters thick. They are grouped in series to create relatively compact banks of batteries that fill (in a T-shaped configuration) the C30s central tunnel and the space just below the rear-passenger compartment normally occupied by the fuel tank. The motor system, cooling fans, and most of the electrogizmos are up front where the standard, transversely mounted internal-combustion engine would normally sit. A paddle-like switch replaces the conventional gearshift, and the E-Brake is now an electrically powered component, also mounted on the lower console. The C30's passenger and storage compartments are unaffected; the standard rear load floor remains in place, as do all insulation and factory sound deadening. The charging port is mounted in the front grille, and revised instrumentation is just about the only other giveaway.
You may wonder about weight. The batteries, wiring, and electric hardware add about VOLVO 260
pounds to the C30's total weight. But all that is mounted lower in the chassis, actually lowering and improving the car's center of gravity. The suspension has been recalibrated accordingly.