INDIANAPOLIS -- Early in the development of the C30 electric car, Volvo Car Corp. decided that the C30's batteries would not have to be capable of quick charging in three hours or less. The Volvo C30 would be charged for six to eight hours overnight, using standard household current.
Market realities drove the decision. Volvo plans to market the C30 only in Europe for now, and the European Union has yet to agree on quick-charging standards.
"For the time being, the volume is all for Europe," Lennart Stegland, president of Volvo's Special Vehicles unit, told reporters at a media briefing last month at the EnerDel plant here that will produce the batteries for the C30.
"The business case is not obvious" for electric vehicles, Stegland admitted. In trying to determine the potential market, he said, "the more research you read, the more uncertain you get."
But the regulatory case is much clearer. Draft EU regulations require automakers to slash their vehicles' carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent by 2012, with more cuts to come after that. Volvo's plans for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are designed to meet those mandates, rather than to meet current demand from consumers.
C30 production will start "with 50 cars to be used in Sweden in different climate zones as a research program" over two years to see how drivers in moderate to severely cold areas use the cars, Stegland said. After that, production will ramp up slowly to 1,000 cars a year.
After the C30, Volvo plans a plug-in hybrid vehicle that will go on sale to a few fleet customers early in 2012. Volvo already has set performance targets for that plug-in hybrid.
Volvo does not plan to make a gasoline-electric hybrid. Again, the decision was driven by the European CO2-reduction mandates.
A hybrid powertrain, Stegland said, "adds a lot of technology and weight" but doesn't reduce CO2 output much.
By comparison, to move to a plug-in hybrid, rather than just a hybrid, "you add a little more technology and gain a lot more" in terms of reduced CO2.