Volvo's first fully electric car, the XC40 small SUV, will be making its global public debut next month. Whilst the final details of the car are limited, in true Volvo fashion, the brand has announced that the fully electric XC40 has already proven itself to be one of the safest cars on the road.
Despite numerous challenges that all EV manufacturers face, thanks to the fundamental change that electric powertrains bring, Volvo has faced the challenge with gusto.
“Regardless of what drives a car forward, be it an electric machine or combustion engine, a Volvo must be safe,” says Malin Ekholm, Head of Safety at Volvo Cars. “The fully electric XC40 will be one of the safest cars we have ever built.”
EVs do have certain advantages when it comes to crash safety, and Volvo's CMA (compact modular architecture) platform, upon which the XC40 is based, was designed with the absence of a combustion engine specifically in mind. The frontal structure of the fully electric XC40, for example, is reinforced so that in head-on impacts, occupants are highly protected.
Lithium-ion batteries and crashes don't mix, as demonstrated in various viral videos showing the aftermath of crashes involving Teslas (and other EVs). To maximise the strength of protection for the XC40's battery, Volvo has developed a crash structure which helps keep it in tact, as well as aiding passenger compartment safety. Housed in what is effectively an aluminium cage and built into the middle of the car's body structure, the system forms a crumple zone around the battery.
Volvo also points out that the placement of the fully electric XC40's battery in the floor lowers the centre of gravity, making the car less likely to roll in the event of an accident or harsh manoeuvres. At the rear, the XC40's electric powertrain has been built into the structure of the car. This acts to deflect the forces of a rear-end collision around the cabin, thus reducing the impact on the occupants.
As well as mechanical safety, Volvo has festooned the fully electric XC40 with brand new active safety systems. It is the first Volvo model equipped with a new Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensor platform. The ADAS platform is a modern, scalable active safety system that consists of an array of radars, cameras and ultrasonic sensors. Because of its scalable nature, it can easily be developed further and lays the foundation for the future introduction of autonomous drive technology.
We're still awaiting confirmation of the XC40's powertrain but the rumours are that it will be based around the Polestar 2 – a car we included in our recent run-down of EVs to look forward to in the next five years. This would mean the XC40 gets a 78kWh battery, 402bhp and a 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds. The launch edition of the Polestar 2 should go on sale at around £50,000, which gives us a ballpark for the XC40.
In any case, we don't have long to wait to find out as Volvo will be revealing more details in advance of the official launch, which takes place on October 16th.