The new electric Volvo XC40 Recharge owes its range to TESLA, as the Model 3’s arrival convinced Volvo they needed to opt for a larger battery pack for the XC40.
Logically, battery packs in electric cars should only need to be large enough to deliver the average daily driving range – plus a bit of a margin – to keep costs, and weight, in check. But, in the real world, it doesn’t work like that.
Buyers don’t look at how far they drive on an average day, but look at how far they might go once or twice a year and, with many drivers used to a range of anything up to, and over, 400 miles from a tank of diesel, anything less engenders the curse of EVs – range anxiety.
That, and the still unreliable charging network, explains why most car makers are shoving the biggest battery pack they reasonably can under the floor of their cars to try and deliver a range that comforts potential buyers.
Of course, there’s the cursed cost and weight penalty from doing so, but in a fledgling, still early adopter, market it seems to be the pragmatic option.
That explains why the new electric Volvo XC40 Recharge has a 78kWh battery pack, enough for a range of over 250 miles and strong performance from its 402bhp electric motors. Or does it?
In fact, it seems the biggest battery pack size on the XC40 was going to be in the region of 60kWh, but then the Tesla Model 3 arrived with a top battery pack of over 70kWh as Volvo were midway through developing the electric XC40. Which made Volvo have a rethink.
According to Volvo CTO Henrik Green, talking to Automotive News, when Volvo saw the specs of the Model 3 they had a rethink:
We increased the battery size. We thought we had a good balance between cost and size before, but when we saw that come out we said, ‘Maybe they have a point here’.
Whether that’s a good thing is debatable, but in a market where range anxiety is still an obstacle to sales, however illogical, it’s a pragmatic move to soother concerns of potential buyers, even if it hits them in the wallet.
But having made the decision to deliver the top models of the electric XC40 with a bigger battery pack, Green is very confident about its prospects. He said:
I wasn’t as confident when we made this decision three years ago. I thought it was much more of a gamble, but now I think it’s in the perfect position. [my only regret is] that we couldn’t have it on the market yesterday.