You won’t comprehend it to have a look at them, however these two vehicles—one Swedish, one Chinese language—share underpinnings and a guardian firm.

Volvo and its Chinese language guardian Geely are very critical about promoting vehicles that plug in. Beginning in 2016, the Swedish model has included plug-in hybrid variations of just about each new automobile it sells within the US. 

In 2019, Volvo launched the XC40 compact crossover, a boxy however trendy compact SUV with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and non-compulsory all-wheel drive. Till now, it’s had no plug-in possibility. 

Volvo’s first EV

Late final yr, Volvo launched its very first all-electric mannequin in North America. It’s known as the XC40 Recharge, and the earliest variations aren’t low cost, priced from about $55,000 together with supply. The launch mannequin, with a 78 kWh battery pack and two motors offering all-wheel drive, is the excessive finish of a spread that can ultimately embody inexpensive fashions with solely front-wheel-drive and/or a lower-capacity battery, at costs within the low 40s. 

The XC40 Recharge has significantly extra horsepower and torque than its gasoline-powered AWD counterpart: 300 kilowatts (402 hp) and 486 lb-ft versus 248 hp and 258 lb-ft. The place it falls down is its EPA-rated vary: a mere 208 miles. That’s lower than another EV calling itself a “crossover” or “utility automobile,” from the Chevy Bolt EV and its soon-to-arrive Bolt EUV “utility” sibling to any model of the Tesla Mannequin Y. 

A pre-production XC40 Recharge I drove for an hour final October via rolling suburban hills outdoors New York Metropolis drew little consideration, maybe attributable to its muted, elegant silvery-green coloration and black roof. Its blanked-off grille was barely noticeable. 

On the street, Volvo’s first EV is snug, fast, and eminently sensible, with a big load bay.

On the street, Volvo’s first EV is snug, fast, and eminently sensible, with a big load bay. The corporate notes that it has the identical 57.5 cubic ft of cargo area because the gasoline XC40s, although its towing capability falls from 3,500 to 2,000 kilos. That’s partly as a result of weight; the electrical XC40 is a whopping 900 kilos heavier than the AWD gasoline model.

My fast street take a look at revealed each professionals and cons of the XC40 Recharge.

On the plus aspect, the tall hatchback/crossover form provides good headroom and ample cargo quantity. The gray inside cloth, textured very very like felt, felt contemporary and distinctive, and its mock-suede seat inserts added a contact of magnificence. 

Like a Tesla, the electrical Volvo doesn’t want a button or key to start out. It senses the fob, and it powers up when the driving force sits down. On the street, it affords sturdy, predictable regenerative braking—with a really slight preliminary lag—proper right down to a cease. 

Android above all else

Better of all, Volvo has handed over its dashboard and infotainment software program to Android Auto. This isn’t the connection utility that permits you to run some telephone apps via the automobile’s display screen; Android software program really powers the interfaces for telephone, navigation, and different features—together with really glorious voice recognition. It all the time labored, it understood what I stated the primary time, and it was far faster to reply than cloud-based voice recognition programs in different luxurious manufacturers. Each carmaker ought to do that instantly. Critically. 

Android operating the dashboard means Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Play Retailer, and extra, are immediately accessible and work the best way you already use them. Maps will calculate whether or not you possibly can attain a vacation spot in your battery vary, and route you thru applicable charging stations if not. Should you select, you possibly can depart your telephone out of the loop altogether. “Hey, Google” is deeply ingrained in lots of customers by now, and Android lastly makes voice instructions sensible in a automobile from a serious maker. 

On the minus aspect, the XC40’s distinctive, thick, blocky rear pillar produces gigantic blind spots within the rear quarter and leaves over-the-shoulder views out nonexistent. We’d have appreciated knobs for local weather management moderately than having to make use of the central display screen—we ended up utilizing Android voice, however not each purchaser will need to do this.

On the street—disappointing for a $50K-plus EV in 2021—the XC40 Recharge proved inefficient. We logged power consumption at 41 kWh per 100 miles. That wouldn’t present even 200 miles of vary. The low-profile, low-rolling-resistance tires have been additionally noisy on coarse pavement.

General, we appreciated the seems and packaging of the XC40 Recharge. Volvo’s advertising and marketing stresses “designed for town” and “engineered for city driving,” and it could doubtless be a sensible choice for city dwellers with straightforward in a single day entry to Degree 2 charging. We didn’t take a look at its claimed potential to cost at as much as 150 kW to 80 % of capability. The practicality of longer street journeys will rely on the evolution of dependable high-speed CCS charging networks—presently a really blended bag.  

We discovered the electrical Volvo’s vary and effectivity disappointing for a automobile in roughly the identical value class because the Tesla Mannequin Y, which affords rated ranges of greater than 300 miles, to not point out the additional benefit of a dependable, ubiquitous, friction-free Supercharger community besides. 

General conclusion: A superb first effort, extra work wanted.

Introducing Polestar

The Volvo XC40 Recharge isn’t the one battery-electric automobile from Volvo/Geely to go on sale within the US. The Chinese language firm has launched a brand-new model known as Polestar, which will probably be constructed round all-electric automobiles and sustainability. It’s “not a standard automobile model,” in response to executives, and can supply a brand new sort of premium expertise.

The Chinese language firm has launched a brand-new model known as Polestar, which will probably be constructed round all-electric automobiles and sustainability.

Polestar debuted with a limited-production, very costly plug-in hybrid coupe known as the Polestar 1. However its first quantity entry, the Polestar 2, is now additionally being delivered to consumers within the handful of city areas most amenable to a brand new model promoting solely vehicles with plugs. These are Los Angeles, New York Metropolis and the San Francisco Bay Space. 

The Polestar 2’s design language has some distinctive parts and a few Volvo echoes. Polestar execs provided blended messages about that—in a digital press briefing, the top of design stated every part was distinctive to the model, as visualized within the Polestar Principle idea automobile proven on the Geneva Motor Present. However a special exec at our take a look at drive steered that the automobile affords parts of Volvo design too. Its “Thor’s Hammer” headlights, as an illustration, have been pioneered by Volvo. Consider the 2 manufacturers as cousins, maybe. 

The Polestar 2 is constructed on the identical underpinnings because the XC40 Recharge, with a 78 kWh battery and entrance and rear motors offering 408 hp complete energy and 487 lb-ft of torque. Whereas it too is a five-door hatchback, it’s a lot decrease than the Volvo, and clearly reads as a passenger automobile moderately than a utility automobile. Decrease frontal space and a sleeker form enhance its EPA vary ranking to 233 miles, higher than the XC40 Recharge however nonetheless far under the 315 or 353 miles of a Tesla Mannequin 3 sedan that’s roughly the identical measurement.

Whereas the Polestar 2 shares operating gear with the XC40 Recharge, the 2 automobiles are very totally different—and meant to attraction to fairly totally different customers.

However whereas the Polestar 2 shares operating gear with the XC40 Recharge, the 2 automobiles are very totally different—and meant to attraction to fairly totally different customers. The model affords an “different” to Tesla, say executives, which doesn’t appear to be the case for Volvo. Contrasting the 2, Volvo is “heat and welcoming,” with “pure and humanistic” supplies and magnificence, however Polestar is “pure and minimalistic” with design that signifies it’s “high-tech and unique.” And so forth.

The outside and inside coloration palettes consist largely of tones of white, silver, gray and black. Supplies embody a wide range of woven and textured materials. Vegan choices can be found as effectively. The general impression we took away was of using in a really costly, very high-tech automotive operating shoe.

That’s not a nasty factor, and Polestar clearly feels it has recognized a market who seeks that. They’re doubtless an excellent deal youthful, and maybe moderately extra Chinese language, than I’m. If the 2 vehicles had similar vary, I’d take the Volvo—however your mileage might differ.

We spent a full day final August driving a pair of Polestar 2s outdoors New York Metropolis, together with a visit to the Hudson Valley’s Bear Mountain State Park. With a decrease stance and 50 kilos much less weight, the Polestar felt lither and barely sooner than the Volvo. It was satisfying to toss across the nation roads, and total, it made an excellent first impression.

Its 20-inch wheels look nice however give a harsher journey than the 19-inch alternate options, as all the time. The Efficiency Pack provides not solely shock absorbers that may be adjusted to differ the journey stiffness, but in addition hanging Brembo disc brakes—although with regenerative braking offering many of the deceleration, they’re arguably overkill. Like its cousin, the Polestar 2 may even have inexpensive variations coming, with one motor and/or a smaller battery—the launch mannequin begins at $59,900.

Polestar itself is within the technique of establishing its firm shops, a course of clearly affected by the worldwide COVID pandemic now getting into its second yr. Anecdotal studies from early customers have indicated some bother in committing to supply instances, maybe not stunning for a automobile shipped all the best way from Luqiao, China. 

Organising firm shops is one sort of problem for Polestar, however Volvo faces totally different challenges in launching its first electrical automobile right into a showroom filled with gasoline fashions. Just a few anecdotal studies from Volvo customers recommend that salespeople who promote predominantly gasoline vehicles might not but be in control—or a lot —in promoting an expensive electrical mannequin. The electrical XC40 comes from Ghent, Belgium, by the way.

Polestar is a wholly new and separate model from Volvo. Underneath present guidelines, which means as much as 200,000 Polestar automobiles will probably be eligible for the total $7,500 federal income-tax credit score.

It’s value noting that Polestar is a wholly new and separate model from Volvo, regardless of the title’s origin as a efficiency sub-brand for the Swedish make. Underneath present guidelines, which means as much as 200,000 Polestar automobiles will probably be eligible for the total $7,500 federal income-tax credit score for purchasing an EV. Volvo nonetheless has loads of its personal credit left, however after a number of years of promoting plug-in hybrids, it has fewer than its sister model.

Excessive ambitions for low CO2

And promoting lots of EVs is vital to Volvo’s marketing strategy. Final fall, an organization govt stated Volvo plans to promote CO2 credit to its rivals as its hybrid gross sales soar. By the tip of 2020, the Swedish model anticipated one out of each 5 vehicles it bought globally to be a plug-in hybrid—although “much less within the States.”

Extra stunning, the corporate stated it expects totally half the corporate’s gross sales to be all-electric automobiles by 2025. That’s extremely unlikely in North America, but it surely suggests Volvo gross sales will proceed to develop in China, which is utilizing a wide range of carrots and sticks to spice up gross sales of vehicles that plug in, nearly all of them battery-electric moderately than plug-in hybrid. 

Of their first iterations, neither the Volvo XC40 Recharge nor the Polestar 2 has spectacular and even aggressive vary—if the competitors for tech-forward consumers is Tesla, anyhow. However, each vehicles have Android Auto within the sprint, which proved to be a way more compelling characteristic than I’d anticipated.

We are able to count on to listen to far more about Volvo’s EV plans, and see much more totally electrical fashions, over the following 5 years. Its second electrical automobile will break cowl this March. Whereas US gross sales of its first EV might not be terribly excessive, it might not want them to be. However for a small firm, Volvo is being aggressive in regards to the transition to electrical—which matches its conscientious, wise Swedish model persona. 

It’s now been 10 years since Geely purchased Volvo and funded an entire renewal of its vary—one which has led to shared applied sciences with the Chinese language model’s personal vehicles, and now the launch of the brand new Polestar lineup as effectively. The price of getting nationwide recognition for a brand new automobile model has been estimated at $100 million a yr for 10 years. Whether or not Geely will put the funds into getting Polestar acknowledged nationwide stays to be seen. 

However each manufacturers clearly bear watching as they roll out extra electrical vehicles. Watch this area.   

This text appeared in Charged Issue 53 – January/February 2021 – Subscribe now.