Volvo’s small car future

Scalable platform reveals framework for EV roll-out

MIKE DUFF

VOLVO has launched the small-car platform that will carry it – and its Chinese owner – into what it hopes will be a crash-free, self-driving and electric-powered future.

The first cars to adopt the new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, unimaginatively dubbed the 40.1 and the 40.2 in concept form, pave the way for the next-generation S40 sedan, V40 wagon and XC40 SUV.

CMA has been designed for three- and four-cylinder application as well as hybrid and pure electric.

The platform will also be used under various models from Geely, the Chinese giant that now owns the Swedish brand.

The CMA platform is crucial to Volvo’s future, a brand that just six years ago was reliant on engines and platforms from former owner Ford, but which has now laid the foundations for a viable future.

The concept dubbed 40.1 gives a first peep at the XC40 crossover, the first model to spin off the CMA platform next year. Its 4390mm overall length is almost identical to that of the Range Rover Evoque, a key target for the XC40.

Under the bonnet is a new plug-in hybrid powertrain, branded T5 Twin Engine. It drives only the front wheels rather than the electrically powered rear axle of the XC90 T8 Twin Engine.

The XC40 will use a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 134kW and works with a 55kW electric motor.

This blends its assistance through a clever seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, with the electric motor working through one of the input shafts (the one with second, fourth, sixth and reverse gears) and therefore able to blend its output with the engine or run in pure electric mode. A 9.7kW/h battery pack is good for up to 50km of electric-only operation.

The 40.2 concept, which could be called S40, is a lot further from production. It uses a battery EV powertrain to give a range of up to 350km, and the company admits that the concept’s styling is mostly to gauge reaction as to whether such a car could replace a conventional sedan.

“It’s quite clear that we need a crossover to start with,” said Volvo

chairman Hakan Samuelsson. “We already have a hatchback [V40] so it’s quite clear that will be renewed.

“We are looking for something a bit different from a conventional sedan, which is a rather crowded segment. If you look at this [concept] you might call it a sedan, but it’s about 30mm higher, which is also a consequence of the electrification – the batteries under the floor require it to be higher – but we don’t see it as a compromise. I think it looks much better with the higher stance.”

BIG MEETS SMALL

CMA joins Volvo’s other future-proof platform, dubbed Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), that underpins the carmaker’s larger vehicles.

It sits under the XC90 SUV already on sale here, and will soon roll out under the S90 saloon.

Like CMA, SPA allows Volvo to flip-flop between conventional engines, hybrid and pure electric motivation depending on market demand. Volvo has set iself the goal of building and selling one million EVs by 2025. betwe

MIX ’N’ MATCH

Volvo R&D boss Peter Mertens was keen to tell us just how adaptable the new CMA architecture is – with what he describes as “plug-and-play” functionality allowing for a huge number of different engine and transmission options.

The XC40 will also be available with other engines from Volvo’s modular family – threeand four-cylinder petrol turbos and, in some territories, a four-cylinder diesel.

While fuel efficiency will be the focus of early models, also expect a high-performance fourcylinder utilising hybrid tech for more punch.