Volvo has unveiled the Concept Recharge SUV design study as part of it setting out the brand’s future technology plans.
The manufacturer has already confirmed that it will reveal an all-electric replacement for the XC90 next year, ahead of it arriving on UK roads in 2023, and the Concept Recharge hints at how that car could look. It’s described as a “manifesto for the next generation of all-electric Volvos”, and heralds the beginning of the brand engineering cars that don’t have to accommodate both internal combustion engine and battery power. That, according to Volvo, means it doesn’t have to compromise on packaging, and it said “by removing the complexity of the internal combustion engine, the designers have been able to evolve the car’s proportions to increase interior space while also improving aerodynamic efficiency.”
With the battery pack under a flat floor, designers are able to extend the wheelbase and wheel size of the car, creating shorter overhangs and more interior space. That in turn, said Volvo, has led to a repositioning of the seats and lowering of the bonnet, creating efficiency gains that improve the electric range.
“With the Concept Recharge, we continue the rich roots of Volvo’s design DNA in a modern and fresh way as we move into our all-electric future,” said Volvo Cars head of design Robin Page. “It represents everything we believe customers expect from a pure electric Volvo and we’re excited to take this philosophy into our next generation of cars.”
Another area of development as Volvo moves to become an all-electric brand, which it has stated is the aim by 2030, is battery performance, and advancements in EV tech see Volvo targeting an EV with a range of more than 600 miles later this decade, thanks to increases in energy density. It is also looking to halve charging times through improvements to software and fast-charging technology.
“We want to constantly increase the customer benefits of driving a pure electric Volvo car,” said Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars. “By simplifying the design and integration of our battery cells, we can reduce weight and maximise space, allowing for considerable improvements in battery capacity, range and charging times.”
Vehicle-to-grid capabilities will be introduced on Volvo EV models, and the company is also looking to produce batteries made only with renewable energy by 2025.
While Volvo’s latest production cars are starting to inherit the latest Android-driven infotainment system, starting with the electric XC40 and moving across the range the Swedish brand has already confirmed details of the “strategic collaboration” with Google that it said will “take infotainment and connectivity to the next level”.
The Concept Recharge model previews the system, that features a 15-inch central touchscreen and smaller driver-orientated display on the dashboard, accompanied by head-up display.
“Our teams have spent a lot of time with Google to further develop and improve our user experience for the next generation of Volvo cars,” said Volvo’s chief technology officer Henrik Green. “Especially in terms of safety, serenity and simplicity, we have made great strides thanks to a deeper integration of design and technological development. We are convinced that it will allow us to create even better Volvo cars and set a new industry standard.”
The new system will incorporate “seamless” mobile phone connectivity, as well as features such as the ability to use a phone as a key, and an app that allows for finding and paying for public EV charging, connecting to home smart devices and over-the-air software updates, as well as functionality already offered such as pre-heating or pre-cooling the car while it’s still plugged in.
Volvo has also announced that it is planning to use anonymised real-time customer data to improve safety. If the customer opts-in, the manufacturer will use continuous data gathering from cars’ sensors to improve technology, including autonomous capabilities, using over-the-air updates to update existing systems and introduce new ones.
According to Volvo, the data gathering will allow it to “validate and verify autonomous driving features quicker”, with engineers able to use real drivers on real roads to experience autonomous capabilities in different geographical locations before activating them.
The system will record what happens immediately before an incident, be that a collision or near-miss, enabling engineers to use the data to prevent such a scenario in the future, and will debut on the electric SUV due to be revealed next year.
“With help from real-life data we can speed up our development processes and go from years to days,” said Ödgärd Andersson, CEO at Zenseact, Volvo’s autonomous driving software arm. “As real-time collection generates a lot more data, we can create better and higher-quality data sets that allow us to make better and quicker decisions on the next advancements in safety. We’re taking a giant leap to increase safety in and around our cars.”