Electrification is the watchword in the automotive industry today. That undoubtedly is the reason why Volvo will introduce the fully electric XC40 next month, despite the fact that Volvo's corporate parent Geely has already spun off Volvo’s Polestar nameplate into a separate all-electric brand.
Volvo is stressing that the new crossover will be one of the safest cars on the road, playing to Volvo's long-standing reputation for safety, perhaps to distinguish the electric XC40 from Polestar's projected performance-oriented lineup.
“Regardless of what drives a car forward, be it an electric machine or combustion engine, a Volvo must be safe,” said Malin Ekholm, the safety czar at Volvo Cars. “The fully electric XC40 will be one of the safest cars we have ever built.”
Though the original XC40 well met Volvo's standards for protecting occupants in case of a wreck, the entire front end of the vehicle had to be redesigned to act similarly in a crash even though there's no big, heavy combustion engine in the front “engine” compartment.
Electric vehicles don't just need to keep the driver and passengers safe. In the case of an accident, the battery pack must be protected to prevent the risk of fire or electrocution. To meet that need, Volvo engineers have developed an extruded aluminum safety cage that encases the battery cells, and embedded the power pack in the middle of the XC40's unibody, which gives the battery cells the protection of a built-in crumple zone surrounding them. The low center of gravity due to the heavy battery's location in the floor of the car also makes the vehicle more resistant to roll-overs.
The battery isn't the only way that Volvo is making electric cars safer. The traction motor in the back of the vehicle is a structural member that is used to help route forces away from the passenger compartment in the event of a collision.
In addition to being the first all-electric vehicle from Volvo, it will also be the first Volvo that comes with the automaker’s new Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensor platform, which uses software developed by Zenuity, Volvo Cars' joint venture with Veoneer. Based on an array of sensors, including cameras, radar, and ultrasonic devices, ADAS will provide the foundation for autonomous drive tech at Volvo going forward.
While the first public showing of Volvo's first BEV will have to wait until next month, to appease the pedantic, I should point out the XC40 is not really the first all-electric vehicle to wear a Volvo logo. In 2017, Volvo Construction Equipment showcased the EX2 prototype, a tracked compact excavator with not just an electric traction motor but also linear electric actuators to replace the hydraulic rams for the unit's bucket.
With that said, it’s not exactly an ideal commuter.