What is it?
It’s an electric Volvo, which seems like a natural choice of propulsion given the company’s long-held concern for the environment, and indeed, it’s been working on experimental hybrids and electric vehicles, often in secret, for almost two decades.
This C30 is its latest pure electric prototype, developed with the Swedish government, from which it hopes to win another tranche of funding to finance a C30 fleet for real-world evaluation.
If that goes well, and it can find more investment money, an electric Volvo might see showrooms, although the company is offering no introduction date. So this battery-powered prototype is a lot further from reality than the electric cars of Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault.
What’s it like?
Volvo chose the C30 because it’s the lightest model in its range, and the eco-oriented DRIVe version in particular because it’s more aerodynamic. The C30’s four-seat packaging makes it easier to package the two 150kg batteries into its central tunnel as well – and its overall weight rises by only 100kg over the standard car’s. It’s propelled by a 109bhp motor that’s good for 62mph in 10.5sec, a battery-preserving 81mph maximum and a 93mph potential range.
Apart from a socket in its grille this C30 looks standard, but inside the rev counter has been switched for a gauge that reveals the rate at which the battery is draining and how much regenerative braking is restoring it, while a smaller dial displays the power drawn to drive the air-conditioning and accessories.
To start you undergo the uncertain experience of twisting the ignition key and hearing nothing, the illumination of the odd light the only indication that the Volvo’s ready to go. And a flick of the gearlever into ‘D’ is all that’s needed to proceed.
The motor makes a distant, soothing whirr which on this prototype, turned to noticeable vibration under hard acceleration – merely a software issue, says Volvo product manager Henrik Jarlebratt – and little other sound. Like most electric cars, the Volvo gets going quite smartly on an instant bow-wave of torque to achieves decently brisk acceleration, if no more than that.