Volvo is finally ready to introduce its first series-produced electric car after spending years testing and developing the technology. The EV will be based on the existing XC40, so it won’t be a stand-alone model. It’s scheduled to make its debut in October 2019, and the company released preliminary specifications to give us an idea of what to expect from it.
Starting with an existing platform has pros and cons. The regular, gasoline-powered XC40 is already one of the safest cars in its category thanks in part to its internal combustion engine. It’s mounted right in front of the car, so it absorbs energy during a front-end crash. The battery-powered model evidently doesn’t have a four-cylinder crumple zone, so Volvo completely redesigned the front structure to achieve the high level of safety its customers expect.
Adding a huge, lithium-ion battery pack under the passenger compartment presents a challenge from a safety perspective, too. Like a fuel tank, the pack needs to be protected from impacts because it’s flammable. Volvo explained it welded an aluminum safety cage around the battery to absorb energy during a crash, and to ensure the battery pack doesn’t get punctured or otherwise damaged. As a bonus, stuffing the battery pack — which is one of the heaviest parts of the car — under the passenger compartment lowers the center of gravity, and reduces the likelihood of a rollover.
Welding more metal around key components isn’t enough to make a car safe. Protecting the occupants also requires a huge amount of hardware and software, so the electric XC40 will inaugurate an advanced driver assistance systems platform developed jointly by Volvo and Zenuity. It relies on an armada of radars, cameras, and ultrasonic sensors to scope out the road ahead, warn the driver if it detects a dangerous situation, and do its best to avoid it if possible. The platform is scaleable, according to Volvo, and it will be upgraded with more features as technology progresses.
Volvo pledged to release additional information about the battery-powered XC40 in the coming weeks. We’ll find out whether it looks like its gasoline-powered sibling, which the company affectionately described as a tough little robot, and what kind of technology it’s packed with. The car is scheduled to make its debut on October 16, and it will go on sale shortly after. Pricing information and American availability will be announced in the weeks leading up to its on-sale date.