Volvo really came to life in the age of electric cars. The cleanliness of the ride somehow suits the cars – the right expression for the Swedish brand. The brand’s promise was to deliver the safest cars; they were solid family cars, first station wagons and later SUVs, that you could rely on. Then every other automaker upped their safety game, and the promise started to be less unique. Today, the brand seems to have found its roots in the electric age.
Volvo is taking the electrification of its entire lineup seriously, promising to make its entire portfolio of new cars battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by 2030. Additionally, by 2040 the automaker will aim to be a carbon-neutral organization with full transparency on the challenges ahead. and actions taken. Not all mainstream automakers make such promises.
Which makes it all the more exciting to drive the new C40 Recharge, a car that leads the way in this new chapter. An essential product for Volvo, unlike other products in the portfolio which are essentially technical revisions of current models, the C40 is the company’s first bespoke electric car.
It comes with dual motors in the front and rear and a 78kWh battery that can be quickly charged to 80% in less than 40 minutes, providing an estimated 260 mile battery range that should last longer. improve over time with live software. updates. And it’s effective. Really effective.
At the weekend we drive the C40 to my in-laws halfway across the UK, charge it overnight, then decide to hit the scenic route again via the Cotswolds, visiting villages, taking a detour to country roads, lunch at Soho Farmhouse, returning to London in the early evening with just under 50% battery charge. During this time the ride was so smooth and easy that we barely registered the time.
I’ve written about the design and spoken at length to Volvo’s senior vice president of design, Robin Page, but the C40 is something else entirely on the road. It certainly looks striking with its sporty low profile, sleek roofline and new electric face. The upright seating position expresses the car’s utility, while the roofline – which is only available in black to identify the C40 from a distance on the road – looks modern and contributes to the overall aerodynamics of the car to help with battery life.
The C40 features Volvo’s new face with a frameless grille and it features the latest pixel technology headlamps, so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic with your full beam – a feature particularly suited to Scandinavian countries. with their long dark winters. Broken graphics in the taillight design add to the new visual identity, as does the new aero-style wheel design which also signifies efficiency. Meanwhile, a subtle light illuminating the front doors greets you as you unlock and approach the car, which might seem like a small idea, but makes you feel a little safer in the dark.
Inside tells an exciting story, in that it is animal-free, which is so crucial as we move towards more sustainable travel. It seems logical that electric cars would take this approach, but I’m still amazed at how few do. Most want to maintain the traditional automotive codes: leather and wood for luxury, fabrics and plastics for everyone else. That’s a shame. We have to move forward. On the C40, around 97% of the materials are made from recycled PET bottles – carpet, console sides and door inserts – and the seats are made from recycled materials which have the double benefit of reducing the overall weight of the car by relation to leather.
Volvo has learned a lot from its electric-only sister brand Polestar which shares the same design studio in Gothenburg and has explored and experimented with sustainable and recycled fabrics and materials outside the automotive sphere. Both teams share ideas and develop materials together but bring different twists depending on the brand, Page told me in our interview. For example, the inspiration for the C40 came from the natural landscape of northern Sweden which the team transformed into a typographic pattern on the dashboard. It has a layered effect so the light behind creates an unusual and cool ambient effect.
Volvo’s mainstream and hybrid SUVs of various sizes and trims, to my eyes, are starting to look a little alike. The C40, however, is fresh and fun and rethinks the design to some extent. He could do more to be radical; all automakers can do more to be radical as we shift into high gear toward a new chapter in transportation. Still, if the C40 is any indication, Volvo will do well in the electric age.