Volvo is planning on adding plug-in hybrids to every model it builds and is planning to add a fully electric car to its lineup by 2019. Volvo says it expects electrified vehicles to account for up to 10% of its total car sales soon. Smaller electrified vehicles would be the notch in the market that year.
The company already has a plug-in hybrid version of its popular XC90 SUV in showrooms and will add plug-in hybrid versions to its other 90 series and 60 series cars shortly. It will also introduce a new line of front-wheel drive compact cars with plug-in hybrid technology based on its S40 sedans. The company has two new architecture platforms that were designed to accept either fully electric or plug-in hybrid powertrains. Few other manufacturers can make that same claim.
The Swedish manufacturer believes that plug-in hybrid cars offer customers the best combination of efficiency, range, and convenience. Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo, says, “We believe that the time has come for electrified cars to cease being a niche technology and enter the mainstream. We are confident that in two years’ time, 10 per cent of Volvo’s global sales will be electrified cars. We have learned a lot about how people use cars with electrification thanks to our current product offer,” said Dr Peter Mertens, senior vice president for research and development at Volvo. “Our research has shown that people are driving our [plug-in hybrid] cars in electric mode around 50 per cent of the time, meaning our plug-in hybrids already offer a real alternative to conventional powertrain systems.”
“With around 40 years of experience in the field of electrification, Volvo has learned a lot about battery management along the way, delivering the best range per kilowatt hour in the industry. We have come to a point where the cost versus benefit calculation for electrification is now almost positive. Battery technology has improved, costs are going down, and public acceptance of electrification is no longer a question,” Dr Mertens added.
Does this mean the world is nearing the time when electric cars become the primary vehicle option? Very unlikely. Volvo cars are marketed as premium vehicles that command a premium price. This marketing shift is primarily for moving away from the heavy diesel line. Not many Honda and Toyota buyers are cross shopping at the local Volvo dealer. True mainstream manufacturers like Honda and Toyota are hardly rushing to embrace the electric car revolution. But the momentum for electric cars is building. The automotive marketplace will look a lot different 5 years from now than it does today.