The new Volvo Recharge branding for plug-in hybrids and EVs will deliver free electricity for a year to encourage plug-in hybrid drivers to recharge their cars.
The two big bits of Volvo news this week are the arrival of the electric XC40 – the XC40 P8 Recharge, to be specific – and the launch of ‘Recharge’ branding. Well, it’s actually three bits of news if you count the ‘P’ in the P8 moniker.
The new XC40 Recharge is Volvo’s first fully electric car (well, if you ignore the electric Volvo C30 which didn’t actually make production) and it’s a good offering, even though the launch model is a range-topping P8 with a price tag likely to be around £50k.
But, and this is where the ‘P’ bit comes in (‘P’ is for Pure), there will be more electric XC40 models coming, with monikers likely ranging from P4 through P5 and P6 to P8, delivering different combinations of motors, performance and batteries.
With the arrival of the electric XC40 comes the new ‘Recharge’ branding (a bold choice, as many motorists reservations about EVs are all about having to recharge) which will be attached not just to full BEVs, but to plug-in hybrids and, we assume, replace the Twin Engine badge.
Considered by many to be an expensive and complicated compromise, plug-in hybrid cars are nevertheless a key part of convincing motorists that electric power does work for cars, and of helping car makers reduce their average CO2 levels, and sales continue to grow. Which, in theory, is fine.
But the drawback for PHEVs is that many are bought by businesses as company cars thanks to the big tax breaks the rather daft official emissions yield. And that gives the custodians of those plug-ins no incentive to actually plug in their cars at night as they’d be paying for the electricity themselves, instead of lumping it on the company card.
So Volvo has decided it will give drivers of their plug-in hybrids a rebate at the end of the year equivalent to the cost of the electricity they’ve used. The deal is just for the first year, with Volvo believing that after a year of freebie electricity the plug in habit will be ingrained and PHEV drivers will continue to plug-in even when they’re paying.
And perhaps, just perhaps, if it can be proved plug-in hybrid drivers are actually plugging in, the UK government may look again at the recently reduced grant levels which have seen just about every PHEV excluded from the plug-in grant.
But don’t hold your breath.