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Volvo to go “all-electric” by 2019

Volvo Cars' T8 Twin Engine Range

Volvo sees all its cars having an electric motor after 2019, but confirms most will be hybrids

Earlier this week Volvo Cars announced plans that all vehicles it produces will be electrified from 2019.

For many outside of the EV sphere, the news came as something of a shock; many headlines and column inches were devoted to the announcement, certainly in the British press. To some extent that reaction is warranted. It is as the company suggests, perhaps the largest commitment to electrification from a conventional automaker, and it adds more weight to speculation that the days of diesel and gasoline-driven cars are numbered.

Indeed, according to Volvo it will mark “the historic end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine (ICE) and [place] electrification at the core of its future business.”

For clarity though, this is not Volvo abandoning the combustion engine, but rather embracing the electric hybrid. In that regard, the move is also less ambitious than it sounds.

Volvo intends to introduce a portfolio of electrified cars across the model range, including fully electric cars, plug-in hybrids and mild hybrids.

It will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021, three of which will be Volvo models and two of which will be high performance electrified cars from Polestar. Full details of these models will be announced at a later date. The move was telegraphed in last month’s announcement that Polestar was to focus only on high-performance EVs from now on.

Alongside these, it will continue to supply a range of petrol and diesel plug-in hybrids and mild hybrids with 48-volt options on all models, which it says will be “one of the broadest electrified car offerings of any car maker.”

“This is about the customer,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive said in a statement. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.”

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” added Mr Samuelsson. “Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a total of 1m electrified cars by 2025. When we said it we meant it. This is how we are going to do it.”

 

Market reaction

Reaction from the market and commentators has been largely positive – although many have also suggested that it isn’t as bold or futuristic as it might sound.

In a research note, IHS Markit principal automotive analyst, Ian Fletcher noted that the move was in line with Volvo’s fairly progressive powertrain strategy, in place since 2015.

While the analyst expects Volvo to sell around 700,000 cars per year, Samuelsson clarified that its 1 million target would only comprise its Twin-Engine PHEVs and battery EVs – thankfully a lot more ambitious, although tougher for the company to fulfil.

“The timing for this transition to electrification currently suggests that the next-generation V40 could be a beneficiary of this move, as it is due for launch towards the end of 2019,” Fletcher added. “Of greater certainty are the next-generation XC90 and other scalable platform architecture (SPA) vehicle moving to non-ICE only powertrains beginning in 2021. Before this, we expect a standalone BEV model to be introduced in the 2019/20 timeframe.”

Given the reception, ElecTrans expects similar announcements to come from other automakers over the next year or so. And while it remains a far cry from a fully electric future, it’s a promising step in the right direction.

 

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