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Volvo unveils first pure plug-in car – and goes all-in for electric powertrains

By Paul Connolly

Volvo has unveiled its first fully-electric car – a version of the award-winning XC40 small SUV.

But at the same time the Swedish manufacturer has gone much further than most rivals by announcing that half of its cars will be all-electric in just over five years. And the other 50% will be hybrids.

It’s a massive vote of faith in electrification by Volvo at a time when, whilst hybrids are on the up, all-electric powertrains are still very much in the minority.

Volvo took the opportunity this week when launching the plug-in XC40 to do it under the umbrella of a new sub-brand called Recharge, which will be the brand name for all new all-electric and hybrid models.

The fully-electric Volvo XC40 Recharge is the first in a line of Recharge models in every single one of Volvo’s line-up, with Volvo promising to soon become the first manufacturer to offer an all-electric version of every car in its range.

So, expect to soon see everything from an XC90 Recharge of the company’s flagship SUV, to a V60 Recharge plug-in estate and more.

The full initiative kicks off very soon. From early 2020, customers entering the Volvo Cars website will first be asked whether they want a Volvo Recharge car or not.

To further encourage electric driving, every Volvo Recharge plug-in hybrid model will come with free electricity for a year (provided through an average electricity cost refund), says Volvo.

“We have said this several times before: for Volvo Cars, the future is electric,” added Volvo Cars boss Hakan Samuelsson.

“Today we take a major new step in that direction with the launch of our fully electric XC40 and the Recharge car line.”

The XC40 features a “state-of-the-art”, fully electric all-wheel-drive powertrain claiming an official range of 249 miles on a single charge and output of 408hp.

The battery charges to 80 per cent of its capacity in 40 minutes on a fast-charger system, according to Volvo.

Further details, including full UK and Ireland specifications, are expected shortly.

To meet the anticipated growth in demand for its Recharge cars, Volvo says it will triple production capacity for electrified cars and will, as of next year, prepare a Designer’s Choice selection of popular Recharge models, offering the potential for “radically reduced delivery times”.

Volvo has also set an ambitions target that plug-in hybrid cars will make up 20 per cent of total sales next year.

The manufacturer has a new action plan, also launched this week, which represents “concrete actions in line with the Paris climate agreement” and aims to make Volvo a “climate-neutral” company by 2040.

In tandem with the Recharge announcement, Volvo also revealed that the XC40 Recharge will be the first Volvo with a brand-new infotainment system powered by Google’s Android operating system and connected to Volvo On Call, the company’s digital connected services platform.

It was not immediately clear how the new system will appeal to iPhone and owners of other smartphone brands like Huawei that don’t use Android.

The XC40 is a relative newcomer, being first revealed in September 2017 and shipping early in 2018.

It’s a five-door compact SUV with optional all-wheel drive and a range of petrol and diesel engines, although it is likely the diesel will be eliminated during the switch to hybrid.

Its bigger sibling, the XC60, was crowned World Car of the Year in 2018.

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