Labelled a manifesto for Volvo Cars’ future, the pure electric Concept Recharge does much more than showcase the company’s future design language and product strategy.
With the Concept Recharge, Volvo Cars demonstrates the steps it will take in all areas of pure electric car development to reduce its cars’ and its overall carbon footprint. The company plans to sell only fully electric cars by 2030 and aims to be a climate-neutral and circular business by 2040.
By using sustainable materials inside the car, equipping it with tyres from recycled and renewable material, improving aerodynamics and through other measures, Volvo Cars can take huge steps to reduce its carbon impact through the car itself.
When combining those steps with the use of clean energy throughout a decarbonised supply chain, manufacturing process and use phase of the car, Volvo Cars believes it can reduce a car's lifecycle CO2 impact by 80 per cent versus a 2018 Volvo XC60, without losing the inherent premium qualities that Volvo cars have become known for.
This would mean that the Concept Recharge would have an overall lifecycle CO2 impact below 10 tonnes, when charged with 100 per cent renewable energy.
“As we enter the age of the electric car, how far you can drive on a full charge will be a key consideration,” said Owen Ready, Head of Strategic and Brand Design at Volvo Cars. “The easy approach is to add more batteries, but it is not the same as simply adding a bigger fuel tank today – batteries add weight and increase carbon footprint. Instead, we have to increase overall efficiency to increase range. With Concept Recharge we explore the tension between the need for efficiency and the desire for the same space, convenience and driving experience as in today’s SUVs.”
Volvo Cars is in the forefront when it comes to working with sustainable and natural materials in its cars, and the Concept Recharge is another proof point of its commitment to push forward with this ambition.
The interior design is rich in sustainable materials, both natural and recycled materials – think of responsibly sourced Swedish wool, environmentally responsible textiles and lightweight composites created from natural sources.
Responsibly sourced Swedish wool is transformed into fully natural breathable cloth, free from additives. This warm and soft material is used in the seat backrest and instrument panel top. Meanwhile, the floor and lower doors are covered by a rich carpet of 100 per cent wool.
The seat cushions and touch surfaces on the door are made from an environmentally responsible material that contains Tencel™ fibres from cellulose. This fabric has a great durable strength and is soft to the skin. By using Tencel fibres, which have been produced through a highly water- and energy-efficient process, Volvo designers can reduce the use of plastics in interior parts.
The seatbacks and headrests, as well as part of the steering wheel, use a new material created by Volvo Cars called Nordico. It is a soft material made from bio-based and recycled ingredients that come from sustainable forests in Sweden and Finland, providing a CO2 footprint that is 74 per cent lower than leather.
Elsewhere in the interior, including in the lower storage areas, back of the headrest and the footrest, the Concept Recharge uses a flax composite, developed by Volvo Cars in collaboration with suppliers. It uses fibres from the linseed plant, which are mixed with composites to provide a strong and lightweight, yet attractive and natural, aesthetic.
On the exterior, the front and rear bumpers as well as the sill mouldings also consist of flax composite. Using a flax composite both inside and out in this way results in a significant reduction of plastics used.
“With the Concept Recharge, we’ve created a comfortable and functional family space,” said Lisa Reeves, Head of Interior Design. “The cabin offers sophisticated forms through the use of natural materials and the harmonisation of textures and tones, reflecting the timeless elegance of premium Scandinavian design.”
With the internal combustion engine making way for the pure electric powertrain, tyres play an even more important role. Not only are they crucial for safety, they also contribute largely to the vehicle’s battery range. This means tyres for electric cars always have to be on top of technology development.
Hence the Concept Recharge feature special tyres made by Pirelli, which are completely free from mineral oil and are made from 94 per cent fossil-free materials, including recycled and renewable materials such as natural rubber, bio-silica, rayon and bio-resin. This reflects the circular approach shared by Volvo Cars and Pirelli, with a focus on reducing resource consumption and environmental impact.
Beyond its sustainable materials, electric powertrain and special tyres, Concept Recharge also improves the environmental credibility of SUVs through efficiency and aerodynamics.
With the Concept Recharge, Volvo Cars envisions the future of aerodynamics. It incorporates innovative aerodynamic features such as exterior design details that smooth the airflow, a new wheel design, a lower roof and a more upright rear end.
As such, it takes the classic SUV shape and improves airflow to increase range, while offering the incredible space opportunities that come naturally with an electric car and its lower floor.
“While consumers continue to drive demand for the benefits of SUVs, we are determined to produce cars that offer all the safety and comfort they look for, as well as slash their environmental impact,” said Owen Ready.
Volvo Car Group in 2020
For the 2020 financial year, Volvo Car Group recorded an operating profit of 8.5 BSEK (14.3 BSEK in 2019). Revenue over the period amounted to 262.8 BSEK (274.1 BSEK). For the full year of 2020, global sales reached 661,713 cars (705,452), a decline of 6.2 per cent compared to 2019.
About Volvo Car Group
Volvo Cars was founded in 1927. Today, it is one of the most well-known and respected car brands in the world, with sales of 661,713 cars in 2020 in about 100 countries. Volvo Cars has been under the ownership of Zhejiang Geely Holding since 2010.
As of December 2020, Volvo Cars employed approximately 40,000 (41,500) full-time employees. Volvo Cars’ head office, product development, marketing and administration functions are mainly located in Gothenburg, Sweden. Volvo Cars’ head office for APAC is located in Shanghai and for Americas in Mahwah, NJ. The company’s main car production plants are located in Gothenburg (Sweden), Ghent (Belgium), South Carolina (US), Chengdu and Daqing (China).
Under its company purpose, Volvo Cars aims to provide customers with the Freedom to Move in a personal, sustainable and safe way. This purpose is reflected in a number of business ambitions: for example, by the middle of this decade it aims for half of its global sales to be fully electric cars, half of its sales to be online and half of its software to be in-house. Volvo Cars is also committed to an ongoing reduction of its carbon footprint, with the ambition to be a climate-neutral company by 2040.