August 5, 2009, 1:08 pm
Is Volvo Building an Electric Car?
By Jim Motavalli
Volvo is currently developing a plug-in hybrid version of the V70. But could the company also be working on a battery electric car?
There has been Internet chatter that Volvo, which has already said it will make a plug-in hybrid vehicle, will also produce an electric version of its C30. Then the other day, a source who is pretty high up in the electric car industry and who has done some work with Volvo, told me that the electric C30 was more than a rumor.
“Am I reasonably confident that the battery E.V. is a go? Yes,” said the source, who asked not to be identified out of concern that it would harm future business dealings with Volvo. The source estimated that initial volumes of the two vehicles together could total 5,000 to 10,000.
When asked about the E.V., Daniel Johnston, a spokesman for Volvo, said: “I can’t talk about it. Volvo is looking at quite a few alternatives.”
In July, Volvo said it was working with Ener1, an American lithium-ion battery supplier, on three plug-in hybrid demonstrator cars based on the V70. Ener1 is also a battery supplier to the Fisker plug-in hybrid sports car (to be built in Finland) and to the Think Global EV company (based in Norway).
The Volvo plug-in hybrids will be “put through their paces across Europe this fall as part of a rigorous development program leading up to the planned 2012 commercial launch of a production plug-in model,” Ener1 said in a press release. The company also said that the production cars will “feature somewhat different technology” from the demonstrators.
Rachel Carroll, a spokeswoman for Ener1, said it had been working with Volvo for three years and hoped that the company would be chosen to equip the 2012 production plug-in hybrid car.
A battery-only vehicle, based on the small C30 coupe, could presumably share some technology with the plug-in hybrid.
Since 2007, Volvo has had a joint venture partnership with one of Scandinavia’s largest utilities, Vattenfall, which is designing both home-based and public fast-charging systems. Lars G. Josefsson, president and chief executive of Vattenfall, said in a press statement that his company and Volvo were “developing the next-generation technology based on plug-in cars and various charging alternatives.”
That charging research would also benefit a Volvo battery-only car, if indeed one were in the works.