Volvo C30 battery layout.

Volvo C30 battery layout

Volvo Cars is currently evaluating the viability of a fully battery-electric vehicle. This year, Volvo has built and is internally testing a small number of prototype versions of a BEV version of its C30. In addition to focusing on performance and safety, much of the focus is on integration of the electric propulsion system with the rest of the car.

Lennart Stegland, director of Volvo Cars Special Vehicles, said in corporate statement: “The Volvo C30 is the first model we will try out with electric power. This car’s excellent properties in city traffic and its relatively low weight make it particularly suitable, since electric cars are primarily expected to be used in and around cities and for daily commuting.”

Volvo’s battery choice for the C30 BEV is designed and developed in the U.S. by EnerDel, Inc., Ener1’s U.S. battery subsidiary. This adds to the recently announced collaboration with Volvo on the V70 model plug-in hybrid demonstration vehicles being road tested in Europe starting this fall, which are also using the EnerDel lithium-ion batteries.

Volvo C30 BEV.

Volvo C30 BEV

EnerDel’s EV chemistry, hard carbon and mixed oxide in a lithium-ion battery pack, yields gross nominal power of 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and is said to be considering a 12 kWh pack. The EnerDel Volvo battery set is custom-made and is described as a split battery pack. With an energy content of more than 24 kWh nominal energy, Volvo plans that 22.7 kWh is used to power the car.

While the electric motor is located under the hood, one of the priorities of the Volvo project is to find the optimal placing of the battery. Most likely it will be the “prop shaft tunnel” and where the fuel tank normally is located. These locations are within the car’s optimized crumple zone in the most common collision scenarios.

Recharging the C30’s EnerDel battery pack via a household supply at 230V, 16A would take about eight hours. That’s connection comparable to what would be required for a laundry dryer or mid-sized window air conditioner.

The C30 BEV is limited to a top speed of about 130 km/h (80 mph)—more than sufficient, Volvo says, for a city car application. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) will take less than 11 seconds. The car would have a range of up to 150 kilometers (93 miles)—longer than the distance 90% of all Europe’s motorists drive per day and surely covers a wide swath of U.S. motorists as well.

So is this the beginning of the end for the gas-guzzling SUVs, suburbans and minivans, or is this just the birth of a new class of city-savvy cars? If Volvo is finally jumping on the electric bandwagon – a company that didn’t introduce its SUV until 2003, well after most drivers already owned one, it’s sure to be the true car of tomorrow.