The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
By Miles Downard
Volvo has committed to a fully electric future. By 2025, half of its vehicle sales will be fully electric. By 2030, the manufacturer aims to produce and sell fully electric vehicles only … it is all in.
With that in mind, Volvo SA has started to ramp up its local offering of hybrid and electric vehicles, the bulk of which I was invited to drive recently at an event in Sandton’s CBD.
That location was carefully considered. One of the key drivers behind the drive to electric vehicles is that they produce zero ‘tailpipe’ emissions. Cities and residential areas are seen to be polluted by the sheer volume of people driving round all the time but if everyone drove an EV, this would largely disappear.
The other key behind the location was to highlight the general use case of an electric vehicle, which is that of a commuter rather than a long-distance cruiser. Battery technology and the associated charging infrastructure are still in their infancy, which means travelling vast distances between our city centres in South Africa is still something of a challenge in an EV. This will change, of course, but at the moment an EV makes the most sense to drive to the office, or pop to the shops.
With this in mind, I hopped into Volvo’s XC40 P8. It looks identical to its internal combustion and PHEV brothers, outside of the blanked-off body colour grille, Recharge branding on the C-pillar, a bespoke alloy wheel design and some new exterior colours. The charging port is on the driver’s side front wing.
It’s driven by two electric motors (one powering the front wheels and another the rears), powered by a 400 V, 78 kWh battery pack. With 300 kW and 660 Nm, the XC40 is plenty quick enough, boasting a 0–100 km/h time of 4.9 seconds. More importantly, however, is an estimated range of 418 km. Hooked up to a 150-kW ultra fast charger, you’ll get to 80% of that in around 40 minutes. On a standard three-phase domestic 7–11 kW wall point charger, you’re looking at eight hours, but somewhat longer via a normal wall plug. Not that you’d often let it get anywhere near zero charge, of course; you should treat an electric vehicle much like your mobile phone by charging it at every opportunity.
From behind the wheel, the XC40 felt surprisingly lightweight for an EV, despite tipping the scales at 2.2 tons. It hides it well. Performance is unreasonably perky for a crossover Volvo; although the ride could be a little less firm considering this is a commuter car and our city road surfaces aren’t exactly smooth. Based on some loose calculations on the day, I estimated it would do 320 km of daily city commuting. Not quite its claimed number but it was being driven a little more enthusiastically.
As you’d expect from a Volvo, the interior is very well appointed and the build quality feels solidly Scandinavian. Introduced in the XC90 some eight years ago, a large tablet-shaped infotainment screen takes up the centre console. It’s intuitive and works much like any mobile device in its navigation. It is based on Google’s architecture, after all, and accordingly boasts all of Google’s native features like Assistant, Maps, etc.
Priced at R1.2m, the XC40 P8 Recharge comes standard with the Volvo Care package. This includes a five-year maintenance plan and warranty – with the battery pack covered for eight years or 160 000 km – three years of comprehensive insurance, use of a petrol-powered vehicle for a two-week holiday every year for three years, and a home charging wall box.
Currently the cheapest SUV available in the South African market, it’s a compelling package and there’s still more to come from Volvo in the next few weeks with new derivative announcements. More on that very soon.
Volvo XC40 Recharge P8
Power: 304 kW
Performance: 0–100 km/h in 4.9 seconds
Range: 418 km (claimed)
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