We just spent a few days with Volvo’s latest all-new electric car, the EX30, in and around, at the company’s headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, and we came away impressed. We asked the questions, and came up with the answers, or so we think, although some will remain until we drive it in November.
A number of automakers are promising truly affordable electric vehicles, ones that not only undercut the current $4,600 price difference between new battery-powered cars and their internal-combustion siblings, but are well below the overall average new-car transaction price. Which is currently approximately $50,000. Mass-market electric vehicles like these are important if we are to make a real environmental impact with our shift to battery power, as there is little that is environmentally friendly in terms of resource-hoarding production and the use of six-figure, five-ton specialist electric cars, vans and SUVs. Quadruple.
Volvo aims to be the first to market such a car, through the EX30 compact car, which it plans to sell at a starting price of $35,000. This is a new category for the brand, and is significantly lower than the current XC40 Recharge EV in terms of price and size. By contrast, this car starts at about $50,000, is 8 inches longer, 4 inches taller, and about 3 inches wider.
This seems like an odd move for a company whose mission, since its acquisition by Chinese manufacturer Geely, has been to move upscale in the same regard as German luxury brands. But, as is often the case, Volvo takes its own path. “It’s actually a class lower for us,” says Joachim Hermansson, vehicle product manager for the EX30, as he walks us around the car, inside and out, and lets us test the blistering acceleration capabilities of the range-topping car, the 442. hp, dual-motor, all-wheel drive model (0-60 in 3.4 seconds.) “But it’s still a standout for Volvo, offering premium features for safety, sustainability and personalization, as well as performance.”
He’s not wrong about any of this. This EX30 comes standard with Volvo’s ultra-strong safety cage as well as lane keeping, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring. Perhaps most notably, it has a brand-new interior that capitalizes on the brand’s efforts to achieve its internal goal of being fully circular in its sustainability efforts by 2040. This means all kinds of fresh, customizable materials made from recycled and recyclable products. Recycle and remove waste, including old security barriers, ocean trash, soda bottles and even scraps of blue jeans. They are transformed by Volvo suppliers into modern fabrics, trim pieces and structural supports, replacing the new veneers, leathers, metals and off-gassing plastics generally found in high-end vehicles.
Eco-friendliness is part of the story here, but deeper reading is about creating new understandings of what constitutes premium. “This fits into our wheelhouse as a brand,” says Dan Fidget, Volvo’s head of color and materials, of the new look of the EX30’s interior, which lacks not only traditional material cues, but familiar totems like a dashboard, buttons or knobs. , speaker grilles or HVAC switches.” “Scandinavian simplicity and no clutter. As the internal combustion engine disappears – and the smells and noises go with it – we wonder what will replace it? This kind of innovation, these materials, could be one way to provide the emotional journey for this next generation of vehicles.
The effect is a bit jarring at first, like sitting in a pre-production design. It just feels…empty. But upon second and third glance, the new materials become more focused, gaining interest with their textures, layers and especially their colours: aqua blue, verdant green, misty grey, and speckled clumps. “Culturally, after the lockdowns imposed by the pandemic, we are in a moment of exit. “People are ready for more color,” Fidget says. “But the more we extract, the more work the materials have to do. It’s like a high-quality restaurant. If you use good ingredients, it doesn’t have to be complicated.”
This approach allows for a focus on interesting applications, and the way materials can be brought together figuratively and literally, allowing for fascinating new solutions. In the EX30, these include new features such as a woven phone pocket on the back of each front seat; A shallow, floor-standing cabinet with a holder to keep your phone upright in case you have to stop and make a video call; Center armrest with multiple slots for storage or cup holders; a rear seat box that can be used as a trash can; And all sorts of small (and large) cubes in the doors, under the rear load floor and in the trunk.
Of course, the primary motivation for this journey is to remove content as a way to keep the price point low. It is much cheaper to produce a single screen that controls everything than dedicated knobs, dials, and buttons. Likewise, the vehicle’s exterior is made with fewer castings and less complex stampings. Efforts to save weight have been made everywhere – in the sheet metal, in the trim pieces, in the use of plastic in the wheel inserts, and even in the wiring – not only to extend the battery range, but also to reduce material and production costs. What’s more, the car is being manufactured in China, where labor costs are even lower than the non-union plant Volvo built in South Carolina.
Volvo apparently hopes that different new categories of consumers will be attracted to this type of offering. “It’s natural to think about Generation Z. Their mindset is changing. They’re taking sustainability seriously,” says Fidget. “But it’s not just younger consumers. Downsizers, or empty nesters, might find an offer like this really compelling, people who want to do more with less. We certainly saw that with the XC40.
The car is certainly interesting and well-executed, and, like Volvo, it’s poised to appeal to a wide range of consumers looking for an incentive to move to electric vehicles. The nearly century-old Swedish brand is relying on its core values – safety, wellness, self-care, durability and sustainability – to catalyze this transformation. “These are all part of Volvo’s DNA,” says Fidget. “It’s the right time in Volvo’s history.”