Volvo's range of Twin Engine models, which use a plug-in hybrid
Every Volvo car launched from 2019 will have an electric motor, the company has announced, describing the move as “placing electrification at the core of its future business”.
The bold move – the first of its kind in the automotive industry – will mark the end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine.
Volvo’s range of electrified cars will include all-electric, plug-in hybrid and 48-volt mild hybrid models.
While Volvo has pipped its rivals to the post with this announcement, it's expected that all new, large vehicles with internal combustion engines will need electrical assistance - most likely in the form of a 48-volt mild hybrid - to pass future emissions legislation after 2019, meaning that other car makers will need to quickly follow suit.
An industry insider commented: "Brands that only have large vehicles in their portfolio will have no choice but to standardise [48-volt] - but we should be in no doubt that the vast majority of their sales will continue to be of vehicles with internal combustion engines somewhere under the bonnet for the foreseeable future."
Volvo also confirmed it will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021, three of which will be Volvo models and two of which will be high performance electrified cars from Polestar, Volvo Cars’ performance car arm.
Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson said the three Volvo electric models would be all-new, rather than derived from existing models. R&D chief Henrik Green also confirm the pure electric models would be offered with two battery choices, one for medium power and range and one for high performance power and with a range of up to 310 miles.
These five cars will be supplemented by a range of petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid 48-volt options on all models.
The car maker said pure ICE cars will gradually be phased out and replaced by ICE cars with electrified options. Samuelsson declined to confirm when all of the range will become electrified, but pointed to the brand's five-year product lifecycle, which would suggest all cars would be electrified by 2023.
Both of the brand's platforms, Compact Modular Architecture and Scalable Product Architecture, are currently being prepared so that both are adaptable for electrification, confirmed Green.
In response to a question posed to Samuelsson in which it was asked why he'd changed his mind on all-electric vehicles - which two years ago he denounced, he said: "We were sceptical about the cost of the battery and the lack of infrastructure. We still believe hybrids are the way in but things have moved fast [with all-electric]. Battery cost has come down and there is movement with infrastructure."
Talking about the strategy, he said: “This is about the customer. People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.
“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car. Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a total of one million electrified cars by 2025. When we said it, we meant it. This is how we are going to do it.”
Samuelsson would not be drawn on a pricing strategy, but said Volvo would remain a premium car maker and would not be launching budget electrified cars. He pointed to China as a country with many electric models but said "a lot of them are in lower price segment".
Despite this, the first electric models from Volvo will be built in China, but will eventually also be produced in its European and American plants.
When asked about how he expects the UK market to fare, Samuelsson said: "We hope the UK market will be strong. Of course, the infrastructure for charging is a limitation."
The announcement also underlines Volvo’s commitment to environmental impact; the company described itself as “focused on reducing the carbon emissions of both its products as well as its operations”. It aims to have climate-neutral manufacturing operations by 2025.
The decision follows the announcement last month that Volvo will make Polestar into a new separately branded electrified high performance car company. Thomas Ingenlath, senior vice president of design at Volvo, will lead Polestar as chief executive.
A number of car makers have set out electrified car strategies in recent years. Some, such as Volkswagen, will offer a range of all-electric models that sit alongside non-electric ones; while others, such as Citroën, have said an electrified variant will form part of its main line-up. Until now, no manufacturer has been so bold to announce that it will make all of its cars electrified.