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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Volvo Releases More Details for 2012 Volvo C30 Electric [video]

With the introduction of the 2012 Volvo C30 Electric to take place later this year in Europe, Volvo has announced some of the finer details for the all-electric, zero-emission hatchback. Volvo estimates that within 10 to 15 years, electric cars will account for up to 10 percent of new vehicles in the European Union, but even though its is launching a fleet of 250 test vehicles, it has yet to announce any timeline for mass production, but it did say that it expects an all-electric driving range of 93 miles with a top speed of 80 miles per hour.

Volvo uses a water-cooled electric motor mounted under the hood that produces 111 horsepower and 162 lb-ft which gets its electricity from a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged in as little as six hours depending on the power source. The battery pack is mounted under the passenger compartment where the conventional C30’s fuel tank goes adding a hefty 616 pounds to the EV’s curb weight, and that added weight hampers the car’s performance. Even though EVs are known for their instant torque, the Volvo C30 Electric isn’t likely to be too thrilling off the line with Volvo claiming acceleration from zero to 70 kilometers per hour (roughly 44 mph) in 6.5 seconds.

Cold-weather driving has proven to be one of the ways most EVs are being tripped in terms of their expected range, so Volvo developed the C30 Electric with a climate control system in attempts to combat this problem. Instead of using the batteries to power a heating source in wintry weather, the C30 Electric uses a heater that is powered by bio-ethanol and in this instance the C30 Electric would create some emissions. Before the “Volvo lied” crowd gets too rowdy, there is also a heating element that is battery powered, but, if used, it would reduce the overall driving range. The fuel tank measures just 3.8 gallons and can be refueled from the same hole used for the fuel tank on the non-electric C30.

“The driver can program and control the climate unit to suit the trip. Ethanol is the default mode that is used when the battery capacity is needed for driving as far as possible,” said Lennart Stegland, director of Volvo Cars' Special Vehicles. “However, on shorter distances electricity can be used to power the climate system”
To maximize the driving range, Volvo engineered the C30 Electric down to the fine details such as weight-saving wheels and aerodynamic improvements which are some of the components that give this car a unique exterior styling. The biggest visual change to the C30 Electric are the exclusive, lightweight wheels that help shave 24 pounds from the C30’s curb weight and the new grille that houses the electrical connection, but the underside of the car is also slightly different as well with added panels for improved aerodynamics. All C30 Electric feature the sportier R-Design body kit, and the initial run of cars will feature a Cosmic White color with a light Ornioco Blue accents around the lower edges of the car and on the mirrors.

In true Volvo style, the automaker has designed the EV components to be as safe as possible especially with the batteries, combustible fuel and Volvo’s reputation for safety. The main differences on the C30 Electric are a retuned stability control system for the added vehicle weight and aluminum rear brake discs that further reduce weight and last longer since the brakes are used less with the regeneration system. Volvo even had a crash-tested C30 Electric prototype on display earlier this year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Volvo C30 Electric will initially launch in Europe in the second half of this year, but China and the United States will likely get the cars during the 2012 calendar year.

"We have received very positive signals from the market so far. Fleet customers such as authorities and companies will lease most of the initial 250 cars,” said Stegland. “The cars will go to Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, U.S.A. and China. If demand continues to remain high, we will increase our production."

Volvo is among a handful of automakers introducing a mainstream EV going up against the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and even the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera. Like some of its current EV rivals, certain functions of the C30 Electric (such as the HVAC system) can be preprogrammed to come on at a certain time or remotely operated using a computer or smartphone.

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