We had the incredible opportunity to spend a few days with Volvo’s brand-new electric vehicle, the EX30, at their headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, and we were truly impressed. Our expectations were met with answers, although some of them will only be resolved when we get to drive it in November.
Many car manufacturers are vowing to release affordable electric vehicles that not only bridge the current $4,600 gap between battery-powered cars and traditional combustion engine vehicles, but also offer a significantly lower price than the average new car, which is currently close to $50,000. If we truly want to make an environmental impact with the switch to electric power, mass-market EVs like this are crucial, as niche, expensive electric pickups and SUVs do not contribute to sustainability. In an effort to be the first to market, Volvo plans to sell the compact EX30 starting at $35,000. This introduces a new category for the brand, positioned below their current XC40 Recharge EV in terms of both price and size. The XC40 Recharge starts at around $50,000 and is 8 inches longer, 4 inches higher, and nearly 3 inches wider. This may seem like an unexpected move for a company that has been striving to compete with luxury German brands since its acquisition by Chinese manufacturing company Geely. However, Volvo is charting their own course.
“This is indeed a lower segment for us,” says Joakim Hermansson, the vehicle product lead for the EX30, as he gives us a tour of the car inside and out, allowing us to experience the impressive acceleration of the top-of-the-line, 442 horsepower, dual-motor, all-wheel-drive model (0-60 in 3.4 seconds). “But it’s still premium for Volvo, offering exceptional features such as safety, sustainability, personalization, and performance.” And he’s absolutely right. The EX30 comes standard with Volvo’s reinforced safety cage, as well as lane-keeping technology, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring. Most notably, it boasts a brand-new interior design that aligns with Volvo’s goal to be fully sustainable by 2040. This means incorporating a wide range of customizable materials made from recycled and upcycled products, including repurposed security barriers, ocean waste, soda bottles, and even pieces of denim. Volvo’s suppliers transform these materials into trendy, technical fabrics, trim pieces, and structural supports, replacing the conventional luxury vehicle components such as wood veneers, leather, metals, and new plastic materials that harm the environment. While environmental friendliness is an important aspect, the core of this transformation lies in redefining what it means to be premium.
“This falls perfectly within our brand identity and design aesthetic,” explains Dan Fidgett, Volvo’s head of color and material, referring to the EX30’s revolutionary interior design. It not only eliminates traditional material cues but also removes familiar features like an instrument panel, buttons and knobs, speaker grilles, and HVAC switchgear. “We aim for Scandinavian minimalism and a clutter-free environment. As the internal combustion engine fades away, along with the smells and noise, we question what will replace it. This kind of innovation and these sustainable materials have the potential to provide an emotional journey with the next generation of vehicles.” Initially, the effect of this design may be disorienting, reminiscent of sitting in a prototype model. It gives off a distinct feeling of emptiness. However, upon closer examination, the new materials come into focus, captivating with their textures, layering, and vibrant colors like watery blues, lush greens, foggy greys, and speckled patterns. “After the lockdowns during the pandemic, we find ourselves in a moment of renewal. People are embracing more vibrant colors,” Fidgett explains. “Taking away unnecessary elements allows the materials to shine. It’s similar to fine dining; when you use quality ingredients, you don’t need complexity.” This approach opens doors to unique applications and creative solutions. In the EX30, these include innovative features such as a knitted phone pocket behind each front seat, a shallow floor-mounted cabinet with a phone holder for video calls, a multi-purpose center armrest, a rear seat bin that doubles as a trash can, and various compartments throughout the vehicle. Undoubtedly, one of the main motivations behind this approach is cost reduction. By simplifying the controls to a single screen, production costs are significantly lower compared to traditional buttons and knobs. Similarly, the exterior of the car is designed to require fewer complex parts and is made with lighter materials to reduce weight and enhance the battery’s range.
Volvo believes this type of offering will attract a range of consumers. “It’s natural to think about Gen Z. They’re environmentally conscious,” says Fidgett. “However, it’s not just the younger generation. Older consumers looking to downsize may find this appealing. People who want to do more with less, as we have seen with the XC40.” With its captivating design and meticulous execution, the EX30 is well-positioned to appeal to a wide range of consumers and play a significant role in encouraging the shift to electric vehicles. For Volvo, a brand with almost a century of history, their core values of safety, wellness, self-care, durability, and sustainability are the driving forces behind this shift. “These values are deeply ingrained in Volvo’s DNA,” adds Fidgett. “The timing is perfect for Volvo in history.”
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