XC90 Could Be the Last Internal-Combustion Volvo as EVs Proliferate

·4 min read
Photo credit: Volvo
Photo credit: Volvo

From Car and Driver

  • The Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 you see above will be the first in a succession of Volvo EVs.

  • Both smaller and larger electric models are going to follow, CEO Håkan Samuelsson told Car and Driver.

  • The next XC90 will be offered in both hybrid and EV forms, and it could be the last internal-combustion-engined Volvo.

We have only just experienced Volvo’s first EV, the XC40 Recharge P8, but we won’t have to wait long for other pure-electric models from the Swedish brand, as it looks to leapfrog rivals with a plethora of zero-emission vehicles.

Volvo has already said that half the cars it produces as soon as 2025 will be fully electric, a proportion far in excess of what we are expecting from Europe's other premium brands by the same point. Now CEO Håkan Samuelsson has given Car and Driver more details about the bold plan, as well as the logic behind it.

"The premium-car market is going to be the fastest-growing segment in the future, and we would go as far as to say we are convinced the premium segment will be electric in the future," Samuelsson told us in a video interview. "You can speculate how long it will be until all premium cars are electric, but we have drawn the conclusion that if we want to be fast-growing, we should concentrate on that segment. It is much smarter for us than to try and take market share in a shrinking conventional car segment."

Next EV Coming as Early as 2021

Samuelsson said that Volvo is planning to launch multiple new electric models, positioned both above and below the XC40 Recharge. The next will be another car sitting on the same electrified Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) that underpins the XC40 and Polestar 2, which will come next year and which he suggested will be an electric-only model without any combustion option. Beyond that, he confirmed that we will see an electric version of the next-generation XC90, and also that Volvo is going to start making smaller EVs.

Photo credit: Volvo
Photo credit: Volvo

"We're looking at smaller vehicles under the XC40, where we’re planning to use an all-electric platform from our brothers Geely in China—the SEA platform. That's something we plan to use in the future."

SEA stands for Sustainable Experience Architecture, with Geely’s Lynk & Co brand showing a concept based on it at the 2020 Beijing auto show. Volvo has recently trademarked the XC20 name, which would be an obvious one for a baby crossover to carry. While Volvo plans to continue to offer mild hybrid and PHEV options with larger cars, Samuelsson says this smaller model will almost certainly be pure electric only. "For a smaller car than the XC40 you can argue there is no point doing a combustion version, because a small gasoline-driven car is also a cheap car. The question [for us] is whether it can be premium and profitable."

Samuelsson acknowledged that different parts of the world will move toward full electrification at different rates, and he says that Volvo will continue to provide options for those looking for hybrids and PHEVs through the medium term. "All our cars will be electrified to some extent, and that’s a good alternative if you cannot charge," he said. "Something like the XC40 is a very modern car, even if you have it in the hybrid or gasoline version. With the new-generation XC90, you will get all of the new electronics, all of the safety devices, but if you live somewhere [without charging infrastructure] there will be a hybrid version."

But Samuelsson also acknowledged the end of the combustion-engined Volvo is likely in sight, just four years after he (correctly) predicted his company would be among the first European makers to banish diesel. He admitted it is possible the next XC90 could be the last new Volvo launched with the option of anything other than a pure EV powertrain. "After that, let's see—we'll probably be more and more electric cars," he said. "It depends really on how fast customers will want to move, and how quickly electric infrastructure will be built up. Maybe I could answer like this: Our ambition is definitely that we should be fully electric before it is made mandatory by governments."

As California is planning to ban the sale of combustion-engined models as soon as 2035, and some European countries are proposing to do so even sooner, the end could be closer than many suspect.

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