Business Maverick


EX factor – Volvo reveals first pure fully electric SUV

EX factor – Volvo reveals first pure fully electric SUV
The Volvo EX90. (Photo: Volvo Car Group)

The Volvo EX90 goes into production in 2023, with the first customer deliveries in the US scheduled for 2024.

Almost 100 years since the first Volvo rolled off the Gothenburg factory floor, the Swedish brand has released the first in a new range that marks the start of its journey to becoming a fully electric company by the end of the decade. 

The new Volvo EX90 raises the stakes for the brand as the true seven-seater, pure-electric SUV is a stylish family car featuring leading-edge technology to optimise safety, efficiency and aesthetics, which include natural and responsibly sourced finishes in the modern, minimalistic interiors, featuring a large central control screen and a small instrument cluster on the dashboard behind the steering wheel. 

About 15% of the car is also made from recycled steel, 25% from recycled aluminium and 48kg from recycled plastics and bio-based materials.

That might sound impressive and give owners some bragging rights, but as Timothy Nixon, CEO at Signal Climate Analytics and a contributor to Reuters Sustainable Business, observed during a symposium in Italy on greenwashing in the automotive sector, announcements of this nature could be deemed “shiny objects to deflect attention from their overall impact on the environment”.

“It’s great they’re [the industry] doing that and hopefully that provides an incentive for others to do it, but that’s not really where the sweet spot is on climate leadership.”

The sweet spot, Nixon said, is measuring the actual climate impact from the use of the products: A report by Drive in Australia further suggests that Volvo is not, since it will in fact off-load all petrol-engine production to a secondary company, its parent company Geely, which will produce all of the marque’s petrol engines for its hybrid powertrains from now on. 

Smartly safe

Back to the safety features then, and this flagship model is by far Volvo’s safest car yet, with tech that gets smarter and safer over time as it learns from new data and receives updates from Volvo’s Download Centre. 

It all sounds rather futuristic and that’s because it is, with what’s described as an “invisible shield of safety” enabled by interior and exterior sensing technology, cameras, radars and LiDAR (remote sensing technology that uses radio waves to detect nearby objects through pulsed laser) connected to the car’s high-performance core computers, providing a real-time, 360-degree view of the world. The LiDAR senses what’s next on the road, day or night, at any speed, and can see small objects hundreds of metres ahead. 

Inside, there are sensors and cameras to gauge eye gaze, which will alert you if you lose concentration or start to doze off. Should that fail, the car is designed to stop safely and call for help. Brilliant.

Volvo’s always been associated with safety, boxy conservative design and reliability bordering on boring. And, given the annual death stats on South Africa’s roads, one wonders: what’s not to love about a safe car? After all, the brand has been committed to its claim to be the “the safest car in the world”, famously declaring in 2020 that “no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo”. Volvo has repeatedly been rated among the five-star performers at the European NCAP and its gift to the world – the three-point seatbelt – was designed by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin back in 1959.

Volvo could have made a mint from the design by patenting it as is standard industrial practice, but, as Forbes reports, it immediately made the design available to all and gifted the designs to competitors, to encourage mass adoption and to save lives. It certainly did – untold millions in fact – and changed perceptions of wearing seatbelts, which is a rare display of corporate altruism. And in the public eye, it’s helped cement Volvo’s image as a safety-first vehicle manufacturer.

‘Start of something new’ 

Volvo’s plan is to sell only fully electric cars by 2030, which is one of the most ambitious electrification blueprints in the automotive industry as the sector scrambles to comply with the EU and UK’s plans to outlaw internal combustion engines by the middle of the next decade

The EX90 will be built in the US from 2023 and later also in China – both climate-neutral production facilities – with customer deliveries from 2024. 

Jim Rowan, Volvo’s chief executive, said at the launch in Stockholm this week that the EX90 will have a range of up to 600km on a single charge. In under 30 minutes the car charges from 10% to 80%. “The Volvo EX90 is the start of something new for Volvo Cars in many ways,” explains Rowan.

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The initially available twin-motor, all-wheel-drive version is powered by a 111kWh battery and two permanent magnet electric motors, together delivering in its performance version 380kW and 910Nm of torque. 

The core system, powered by the Snapdragon chipset, runs most of the core functions inside the car, from safety and infotainment to battery management. It has lightning-fast computing power and high-quality graphics on the screens and head-up display.

5G connection comes standard, allowing you to install apps, navigate and stream music through the Bowers & Wilkins audio system featuring Dolby Atmos, which are also played through headrest-integrated speakers for immersive sound.

Volvo EX90

The Volvo EX90’s design includes natural and responsibly sourced finishes in the modern, minimalistic interiors. (Photo: Volvo Car Group)

The 36cm centre screen provides one of the best infotainment systems on offer, with hands-free help from Google Assistant, Google Maps navigation and more of your favourite apps. It’s also compatible with wireless Apple CarPlay.

Other pretty neat features include standard phone key technology that allows your smartphone to serve as your car key, which will automatically unlock the car and start a personal welcoming sequence as you approach. Your personal profile will also be loaded automatically upon entry.

For a scatterbrain like me, this sounds like heaven – I might misplace my keys but my phone’s never far from my side. Sadly. Even sadder is the fact that there’s no confirmation yet on when the EX90 will finally hit our shores. Or the price tag. But that’s likely to be in the region of two bar. Word of advice: you might need to start forfeiting more than avo toast and daily coffee takeaways. BM/DM



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