Volvo has announced that its first fully electric car, an EV version of the Volvo XC40, will make its debut on October 16. Details will be gradually released over the coming weeks, and this is the first instalment.

Volvo = safety, and despite going big on design in recent times, safety is at the core of the Swedish carmaker. However, going electric is a big shift in terms of a car’s layout – for the first time in over a century, cars move without an internal combustion engine (ICE) in the engine bay, and have a battery in the floor. This means that the way carmakers look at safety and engineer safety needs to change as well.

The Geely-owned carmaker says that the upcoming electric XC40 will be one of the safest cars on the road, despite a fresh set of challenges presented by the absence of the ICE. “Regardless of what drives a car forward, be it an electric machine or combustion engine, a Volvo must be safe. The fully electric XC40 will be one of the safest cars we have ever built,” declared Malin Ekholm, head of safety at Volvo Cars.

While building on the already top safety standards of the regular XC40, engineers had to completely redesign and reinforce the frontal structure to deal with the absence of an engine, meet the company’s high safety requirements and help keep occupants as safe as in any other Volvo.

“The fundamentals around safety are the same for this car as for any other Volvo. People are inside, and the car needs to be designed to be safe for them,” Ekholm stressed.

To help keep passengers safe and the battery intact in the event of a collision, Volvo developed a new and unique safety structure. The battery is protected by a safety cage which consists of a frame of extruded aluminium, and has been embedded in the middle of the car’s body structure, creating a built-in crumple zone around the battery.

The battery location in the floor of the car also has the benefit of lowering the SUV’s center of gravity, for better protection against rollovers. Meanwhile, the car’s body structure has not just been reinforced in the front, but also at the rear. Here, the electric powertrain has been integrated in the body structure for a better distribution of collision forces away from the cabin, and reduce the strain on occupants.

In the active safety systems department, the battery-powered XC40 also introduces new technology. It will be the first Volvo model equipped with a new Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensor platform with software developed by Zenuity, the joint venture company owned by Volvo Cars and Veoneer.

The new ADAS platform is a modern, scalable system that consists of an array of radars, cameras and ultrasonic sensors. Because of its scalable nature, it can easily be developed further and lays the foundation for the future introduction of autonomous drive technology. Stay tuned for more on Volvo’s first EV.


GALLERY: Volvo XC40 T5 Twin Engine PHEV