New Volvo EX30 wants to lead in sustainability
With the new EX30, Volvo is reaching out to fleets that are serious about sustainability. Its smallest SUV to date minimizes on materials and ups the game for recycling without its size compromising safety. The carmaker from Sweden wants to push the boundaries for both lower carbon impact and TCO.
As its smallest SUV to date, the electric-only EX30 targets to significantly widen its customer base for Volvo. But the crossover also introduces the next step in sustainability.
"This is a big deal for us", announced Volvo CEO Jim Rowan (pictured above) at the official unveiling, "This model is designed for the smallest carbon footprint of any car today. It also has the highest material utilisation rate of any Volvo on the market. We managed to reduce its total carbon footprint over 200,000 km of driving to below 30 tonnes." Compared to an all-electric XC40, the reduced impact increases to 35%.
Only the lonely
With a length of barely 4.2 metres, the boxy-styled EX30 sits in a category left untouched by other premium competitors, like BMW and Mercedes, while Audi has announced withdrawing the rivalling Q2, which doesn't feature an electric driveline, after the current generation. So, the challengers for Volvo's newcomer are the Peugeot e-2008, Jeep Avenger and Smart #1. But judging by the listing prices from Germany (36,590 euros for the base version Core), the little crossover from Sweden undercuts them by several thousands of euros, which is... interesting.
That favourable market positioning finds an explanation in its Chinese manufacturing origins (it's a sibling to the Smart #1 and Zeekr 001) and in its technology. Offering the choice of two battery packs, the Single Motor base version gets a module with an LFP chemistry (lithium-iron-phosphate), which is cheaper to produce. From a net capacity of 49 kWh, it draws a WLTP homologated range of 314 kilometres. Obviously, this version targets urban runabouts.
In sports car territory
More demanding driver profiles can turn to the Extended range version with a battery pack of 64kWh and NMC chemistry (nickel-manganese-cobalt), boosting the range to 480 kilometres. The larger battery pack can also be mated to an additional electric motor called Twin Motor. All models are quick, too. With an acceleration from a standstill to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, the Twin Motor version passes as the fastest Volvo ever. This is sports car territory.
"The combination of a new segment and a new price point means we will attract a much wider audience, predominantly younger and first-time buyers. A clear distinction, also, in customer profile with the XC40 Recharge", told Francesco Speciale, project leader of the EX30, to Fleet Europe. In the front, the interior space is actually quite comparable to the XC40, but in the back and the boot (329 litres), the EX30 is much less roomy.
Speciale also mentioned an in-house survey conducted in France and Germany, pointing out that 'the LFP model has the lowest TCO among the competition.' Mainly a combination of low upfront cost and the high efficiency of the chemistry. Notably, Volvo will also offer the EX30 as a subscription model, like sister brand Lynk&Co.
The downsized dimensions of the EX30 are where the sustainability efforts start, from the simple logic that compact cars use less materials - and that large electric SUVs (like the EX90) bear a contradiction within them.
Those materials in the EX30 are highly recycled for today's standards. Aiming for 20% recycled plastics in 2025 on all its models, the EX30 already features a recycling rate of 17%. It's even deliberately made visible in the underparts of the front and rear bumpers, which are left unpainted for easier end-of-life recycling. The use of recycled aluminium is at 25% , for steel it is 17%, significant shares.
From debris to decoration
Like many EVs on today's market, the upholstery in the interior bets on ecological materials, such as flax for the seat cloths, PET bottles for the foot carpets, water-based paints for the dark coverings in rock grain, recycled denim, and, ofcourse, vegan leather. There is nothing revolutionary there, except that Volvo has developed production methods to precisely cut and mould each part needed and reduce waste to an absolute minimum. It's part of the material utilisation rate Jim Rowan was referring to. The minimalist, stripped ambience is also a means of cutting expenses for Volvo.
However, with a choice of four 'Rooms', basically decorations, for the interior equipment, Volvo has considerably broadened the choice of interior ecological materials, which, in light of how premature the business of sustainable material sourcing still is, sets a benchmark.
Unaffected lead times
As small shouldn't mean unsafe, Volvo went to extra lengths in making the EX30 match its legacy family name. Helped by the fact that electric models perform better in crash tests than ICE cars, the EX30 uses a strengthened protection cage. It will be available with some state-of-the-art driving aids, such as a fatigue monitor able to guide the weary driver to a resting place and a door-assist for protecting passing cyclists under parking, with also an automated mode for the latter.
High on digitisation, the EX30 comes with the latest version of Volvo's infotainment system powered by Google. During charging the passengers can watch YouTube and the maps also feature real-time updates for the network of charging stations. Volvo's over-the-air updates can add further functionality after purchase without visiting a workshop. There's a digital key for the multi-user approach.
As many Chinese-made cars have been suffering from postponed lead times, Volvo promises no delays for its EX30, which is 24 weeks. Orders are already open, with deliveries to the first customers scheduled for the beginning of 2024.
With interesting quotes, a low TCO, a strong accent on circularity and practical packaging despite its small size are a windfall for Volvo's supermini. It's a compelling offer for company fleets seeking to woo young potential.
Finally, as more than one player is reaching for the sustainability crown - Fisker and Lucid, to name a few - these brands can't offer the scale, accessibility, dealership network and procurement channels of Volvo. Will the German premium brands reconsider their position?
Image Source: Volvo