• 21
Volvo C30 Electric – Click above for high-res image gallery

The first thing we noticed about the Volvo C30 Electric – the automaker's most serious contender in the electric car space that will enter production in 2011 – is that it's a great platform to turn into an electric vehicle. The standard C30 has an instantly likable interior that felt comfortably wrapped around us as soon as we closed the door. Sure, sure, we like the all-electric powertrain and all the benefits that come with it, but when it comes to the instant vibe that a car gives us when we step inside, the C30 Electric wins the everyday driving coupe award, hands down. Everything feels so right, competitors should be taking notes. We did just that during our recent test drive, and you can find all the details after the jump.


Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car

  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car side profile

  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car rear 3/4

  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car rear

  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car front 3/4

  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car front

  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car

  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car dashboard
  • Volvo C30 DRIVe electric car dash


Volvo's electrification plans

We drove around the LA Convention Center with Lennart Stegland, president of Volvo Special Vehicles, who said that Volvo began work on the electric C30 around 18 months ago. The reasons for the project are not hard to figure out: emissions legislation is getting tougher, and there's only one way to meet those specs. "Immediately, you end up with electrification, one way of the other," Stegland said. The C30 Electric project is one way for Volvo to learn everything it can possibly know about electrifying vehicles. "Normally, we would ask the suppliers. But right now, no one knows, so we have to acquire this competence in-house first. Because if we don't, then we can't buy the right stuff."

Remember the Volvo ReCharge? That was an early research vehicle, also based on the C30, that Volvo used as a testbed for things like in-wheel motors (which the C30 Electric does not have. It has a 84 kW motor that puts out the equivalent of around 110 horsepower instead). Stegland said that the C30 Electric contains a lot of technology from previous prototypes but that the reason this one has advanced further than the others is that battery technology is finally ready:
We have been doing electric motors before, but we've never ever before had a battery technology that could deliver the range that was necessary. I think 100 miles is a good range. In practical life, that will deliver about 80 miles. If you do very careful driving, you can get 120 miles, easy.
The 24 kWh battery pack comes from EnerDel, which Stegland said was the best provider of the type of li-ion chemistry Volvo engineers wanted. There are six main types of lithium-ion battery chemistries (with hundreds of variations among them), he said, and EnerDel was able to provide a chemistry that is very stable. It's not the most efficient when it comes to energy density, he said, "but we believe we will have a car that will have very very good life expectancy of the battery and we will not have a "nervous" battery." Wait, what's a nervous battery?
If you take a battery that you have in a telephone, that is designed to last a maximum of two years and it is very capable of storing a lot of energy in a small volume. But, when it comes to, say, the ability to withstand shocks or demolition, it will not like it at all. So in that case, it is "nervous." Volvo is about safety, and we know from component testing that we should avoid putting batteries where it can be impacted in a crash.
Ah. Okay. Let's move on.

In the C30 Electric, the battery is in two parts along the center tunnel and under and behind the rear seats. That's good for crash safety, but means that, if something goes wrong with the pack, Stegland said that, Volvo dealers would only be able to swap out the entire pack, leaving the cell-level repairs to Volvo specialists. Dealers would have spare packs on hand that could be placed into the vehicles. The dealers would then ship the malfunctioning packs back to Volvo for repair. Stegland said that Volvo is not interested in working with Better Place on a swappable battery vehicle because the pack needs to be secure in the vehicle, even during a crash, and the engineers are designing the pack to form part of the structure of the car. Lastly, he said, swappable packs can cause problems with the contact points between the pack and the vehicle, and that's a difficult problem to fix.

volvo c30 electric car

Put all these pieces together, and you can see that the C30 Electric is getting ready for the big time. Almost. A limited production run of electrified C30's that will head out to test fleets in Europe, China and the U.S. early next year. Aside from this vehicle, the company has more plug-in projects going as well. Volvo's first plug-in hybrid,based on the V60, is coming in 2012. Paul Gustavsson, the architect behind Volvo's electrification strategy, has said that Volvo's new owners [Geely], "are very keen to focus on electrification" and Volvo's new CEO, Stephan Jacoby, is a new convert to electric vehicles now that heʻs driven them. As with any automaker electrification program, this is all subject to change. The C30 Electric, for example, wasn't supposed to come to the U.S., but now it will.


Driving the C30 DRIVe

As we said, the C30 is a wonderful little car. It doesn't quite have the accelerator punch that some other electric vehicles have, but the size, the look and the feel of the car on the road are all top notch. With great rear visibility and clean lines, we can totally see ourselves getting into one of these day after day. At least, thatʻs what 15 minutes in the car told us.

The dashboard, which is all preliminary and not representative of the production version at all, features a little "eco" gauge, which we couldn't really understand at first glance. Stegland said it is there to let the driver know the measurement of how much energy you consume that does not bring mobility or range. So, if you put on seat heating or the defroster, he said, the needle will drop outside the green field. The final version will also use an information screen to provide more detail to the driver. See also: the Nissan Leaf.

volvo c30 electric car dashboardvolvo c30 drive electric car

The C30 does have a slight creep, like an automatic, and it feels very much like a normal car, something Stegland said was a goal of the engineers. Another goal: not putting in driver-selectable regenerative brake levels, the way VW has done with the Golf Blue-e-motion.
We don't go in that route and the reason is very simple. When you get adjusted to a car, you need to learn how a car behaves. You are automatically storing that in your head. That is what we call predictability. If you start to manipulate one of the most important criteria, then you really end up in a situation that could be cumbersome for you. Secondly, when you are in slippery conditions, then you will also understand that it's wise that the [Dynamic Stability Traction Control] system is kicking in and taking down the regeneration as well, redistributing torque to the wheels, either with the motor or the ABS system. Otherwise, you will create a problem for yourself.
Stegland did tell Plug In Cars, though, that the driver can use the gear lever, "to remove regenerative braking in a kind of cruising mode."

The only battery-powered car with an ethanol heater

As we learned during a visit to EnerDel Indiana facility earlier this year, the C30 Electric has a unique feature: an ethanol heater. Stegland said that every electric C30 will include one of these because, "in tough winter conditions – below -10 degrees – you need an extra heater. This is a very logical way to [provide that heat]." The heater itself is small, about the size of a chainsaw motor.

What's perhaps not so logical is that the heater only uses ethanol, and that this requires a special ignition system to get going. Stegland said that "if necessary," Volvo can install a heater that burns standard gasoline. The heater uses less than one liter per hour and the system has a 15-liter tank. That should provide around 15-20 hours of use, which Stegland said would be around two weeks of use. The driver, though, can override the ethanol burner and use the battery to heat the car for totally emissions-free motoring. If you're okay using the biofuel and/or want to "secure your range," then you let the vehicle use the liquid fuel for what it's great for: burning up and providing heat. Like with everything else about this car, we like that.


  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photos copyright ©2010 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

A video interview Steglund conducted with Plug In Cars and two videos put out by Volvo are available below.








I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 21 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      A neighbour owns a C30 DriveE, 1.6 diesel manual with mild hybrid technology. It's a Scandinavian spec, so has an engine/interior diesel fuelled pre-heater. Turns out that stops working after just two usages (-5 degrees C) because he only drives the car for 10 km to work, not enough to recharge the battery. He does occasionally cycle during summer, however since his running costs have dropped dramatically by switching to this very fuel efficient diesel, that may stop as well. And uses it for longer trips to visit family (more than an EV will ever be able to handle) to clean the soot filter.

      OT: do the preheating from the e-network, and the lazy user will end up burning more CO2 from a wall socket, than he ever did with the fossil car. Ditto when the same user stops cycling due to even lower variable costs.

      Step one are utilities, let's start there.
      • 4 Years Ago
      A driver adjustable regenerative braking design would be a desirable feature, even if it was adjusted just once and never changed thereafter. It would allow a degree of customization to fit the driver.

      A "driver adjustable regen" wouldn't necessarily interfere with ABS and Dynamic Stability Traction Control, it could certainly be designed with limits to adjustment, if necessary, to prevent handling problems.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I understand you want skinny tires for low rolling resistance, but can we push them out a bit so it doesn't look so gosh darn goofy?
      • 4 Years Ago
      For anyone wondering where to get those LED DRL fog lights. They are made by Hella and fit Volvos and Volkswagen MKV & MKVI models. Cost about 250 EUR :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why does it have a grill like a water cooled internal combustion engine? Afraid to look like what it is? You expect that from a garage built electric, but a car manufacturer?
        • 5 Months Ago
        Because as the batteries charge and discharge they give off heat. Because maintaining a steady temperature increases battery life, you need to cool batteries. To maintain battery temperature, you can either use air or liquid. Volvo appears to have gone the same route as Chevy and Tesla (liquid cooling) - probably because it is more space efficient than air cooling.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Well apparently these EVs have more cooling needs than many would assume. I peered into the front of the Nissan Leaf and there was a radiator thing right up front. Now it wasn't a big standard radiator like you see in a gas car but it was a radiator. I'm not sure what it was for . . . air conditioning? Coolant for the motor? I dunno.
        • 5 Months Ago
        That's because it is a garage conversion.
        Volvo is doing the same mistake as Volkswagen does and Mercedes did
        (Merc 190 EV - trunk full of batteries).
        Convert an ICE car with all the problems. Insufficient battery space, a huge waste of space (engine bay) there is no big guzzling engine there.
        electric engines are much smaller.

        and yes THEY ARE AFRAID. Better design it like an old fashioned gas guzzler.

        @spec
        well apparently not. you need a cooling for some electric motors but not all.
        furthermore the waste heat of an electric motor is much less than from an gas engine with 15% efficiency. A very small watercooler with a small opening would be enough and lowering the drag.

        It is a nice car, but could be refined in terms of aerodynamics and space. making sense especially for an ev that has to be savvy on the electric fuel.

        But they have told the customer that he wants a regognizable hood.
        Compare a VW Golf to a Toyota Prius.
        Same size, but the Golf has a long hood, a "sharp corner" and then the windshield.
        For the prius the hood ist followed by the windshield giving it a round shape reducing the drag.
        (the air follows this shape easier, I kill less bugs on the autobahn than with my golf...
        With the golf they are beeing pulped, with the prius the insects are pushed over the car by the airflow)
      • 4 Years Ago
      Screw adjustable regen - all you need is your left foot and a computer smart enough to not use any friction brakes until the car can't handle any more regen. Voila - fully customizable regen to your heart's desire.

      Throw in some indicators to show the amount of currently being used, how much is available and whether or not the friction brakes are engaged and you're done.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think the idea of driver adjustable regen is excellent and should be a no-brainer. Why would you not have this? Even a simple 3 position adjustment would be great, some drivers want more, some want less, everyone can easily be accomodated.

      Along the same lines, I think electric power steering should offer a few different levels of assist. Some Nissan Leaf test drivers have commented on the steering feeling over-assisted, here is another area that could have a few adjustment levels so everyone gets the amount of assist they want.
        • 5 Months Ago
        I can see valid arguments against adjustable re-gen. For example, if you give an EV to a parking valet, dealer for service, etc, every car will have unpredictable braking behavior.

      • 5 Months Ago
      Don't buy ANY CARS till they commercialize small cheap practical home biofuel machines to make cheaply and regualarly without efforts or any new costs electricity and biofuels( methane, methanol, ethanol, propane, butanol, bio-diesel, nitro-methane, hydrogen, 110 octane gasoline, 87 octane gasoline, engine oil, grease bearing, acetylene ).
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Everything feels so right"

      That's what happens when you start with a good car. The Volt and Leaf are based (closely and loosely, respectively) on the Cruze and Versa, which aren't spectacular cars to begin with. Autoblog's review of the Volt noted that some of the Cruze's cheapness is felt in the Volt's interior, and the Leaf's steering and handling is reported to be numb and uninspired like the Versa. The Volt and Leaf needed to improved upon their platform siblings/cousins to bring the car up to expectations that match the price tag, but Volvo doesn't need to improve upon the C30 to play in the same league.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Not true. The Cruze platform is also the basis for the Opel Astra. That car beats the almost previous Focus based C30/S40/V50, but probably not the next Focus.
      • 4 Years Ago
      LOL @ Autoblog for parking in a no parking spot, then taking a picture of it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The C30 EV was a joy too drive, as was the Golf e-motion. The C30's aggressive regeneration might be too much for many, and they could find themselves in "sail" mode (as Stegland told me it was called) much of the time. Personally, I like the VW approach of giving the driver control of regeneration, though I can see Stegland's point about not doing so.

      The lack of creep simulation in the VW made sense once it was explained to me that it was to give it a manual transmission feel that European's would be more used to, but I'm not sure it would be so readily accepted in the US market where most would expect creep as reinforcement that the vehicle was ready to move.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Regen should be controlled by lifting off the accelerator.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Yes as a MT driver I don't want creep, and I do want aggressive regen, though I would like some kind of regen control.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Groan! Why can't we edit our posts...to not too!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Oh man. I want prices and dates.

      More c30 coverage please =D
    • Load More Comments