After sitting quietly as one of the safest and coolest looking hatchbacks on the market, the Volvo C30 is finally starting to get some due press. The 2011 Volvo C30 has already made its presence felt at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show by offering not only an all-new look and a sporty R-Design model, but now Volvo has released details for the BEV (battery-electric vehicle) version of the compact hatchback. It isn't clear what the production plans are for an all-electric C30, but Volvo should be able to piggyback Ford Motor Company's BEV version of the 2011 Focus since the two cars will then share the Ford C1 platform.
Volvo will most likely be closer to launching an electric vehicle following the introduction of its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2012, but the company has already built a small number of C30 BEV prototypes for testing purposes. According to a Volvo press release, the plug-in technology is the main direction the Swedish automaker will be taking heading into the future because these vehicles offer a longer range and less expensive battery technology. While oriented more toward urban commuters, the advantage of a BEV compared to a PHEV is zero tailpipe emissions afforded by the all-electric design.
The battery pack being developed for the C30 BEV is a 24 kWh lithium ion unit which is twice the size being developed for the future PHEV but necessary to allow for a range of 93 miles on a full charge. Most automakers are claiming that a 60-mile range is more than sufficient for the commute of an average American, so the C30 BEV should deliver a competitive range that is greater than the Chevrolet Volt's electric-only range of 40 miles but slightly less than the 99-mile range of the Nissan LEAF EV. According to Volvo's initial specifications for its first BEV, it will take eight hours to charge a fully deplete battery from a 230-volt home outlet (usually reserved for clothes dryers and air conditioners).
Unlike the Tesla Roadster, the Volvo C30 BEV will be anything but a performance car. The unspecified electric motor will sit under the hood like the engine of a conventional C30, but acceleration will be quite sluggish running from 0-60 miles per hour in just under 10.5 seconds and a top speed limited to 93 mph. The electric components will raise both the cost and the weight of the hatchback, but in true Volvo fashion, safety was taken into consideration when designing the battery system. Since the C30 BEV will not use an internal combustion engine, there will be no engine, exhaust system or fuel tank on the C30 BEV, the area usually taken up by these components will be used to safely house the T-shaped battery pack similar to the layout of the Chevy Volt. The C30 will retain its four-passenger layout thanks to the main battery stack mounting beneath the center console while the remaining stack is flat-mounted under the rear seats.
Volvo also used the auto show in Frankfurt to display yet another C30 model that we don't expect to make it to the U.S. - the C30 DRIVe. The DRIVe system starts with a 1.6-liter diesel inline-4 and adds in automatic start-stop technology. Not only does this result in a drastic reduction in C02 emissions, but it also improves fuel economy to an estimated 62 miles per gallon in combined driving.