You canít fault EVs on this front. One of the great things about electric drive is the near instant torque, which means an electric car positively jumps forward when your hitherto combustion engine-familiarised foot presses the pedal. It takes a bit of getting use to, and you have to be ultra light-footed at the start to avoid running over your neighbourís cat, asleep inches from your front tyres. Further up the speed range and things settle down a bit, the weight of the batteries and their design around maximising efficiency for greater driving range means that the 0-62 sprint evens out after a strong start. For the C30, it reaches 62mph in 10.5 seconds, quicker than the 115ps diesel model C30, but still only reasonable for the type of car it is. The carís 280kg lithium ion batteries produce the equivalent of 110bhp or 82 kW which gives the car 163lb ft of torque, pushing it to a top speed of 81mph. With a maximum range of around 90 miles, recharging using a via standard 230 V power socket takes 8 hours.
The additional weight of the batteries affects the ride and handling in both good and bad ways. While heavier than its combustion counterpart (by, in total, around 300kg), the C30 electricís deadweight batteries are centrally located, mainly for safety purposes, but this helps to give the car more balanced and solid handling. Lighter at the front, the car rolls satisfactorily freely, and while you can feel the extra energy-sapping weight further back, the overall experience is that the C30 electric offers the solid ride of the combustion versions, only even better. Volvo has carefully re-engineered the C30 to adapt to electric drive, and it shows. Steering feels well weighted and the electric car is unlikely to suffer body roll thanks to its low profile and centred load. I drove the C30 electric on smooth Swedish roads so it is hard to say how it how it would cope with pot-holey UK roads, but I see little cause for concern here. Another pleasant plus to the electric model-itís near silent drive, which makes driving it, a serene experience.
The combustion C30 has been highly praised for its build quality, fit and finish, and as the electric version has had even more attention paid to it, so you can be sure itís solid. As Volvo is leasing the first models, reliability is of little worry for the carís first drivers as the car maker has every intention of keeping a close eye on its baby EV and will deal with any problems which might arise, as it seeks to learn more about the potential use and performance of the car. The model we drove had a lush leather interior, smart and well-laid out dash and felt solidly sewn together.
Again, here Volvo has been meticulous. While the real-world safety of EVs remains unknown, as you would expect from the Swedish car maker, the C30 electric has been thoroughly tested to both EU standards and to the car makerís own even more pernickety specifications. The company has made taken significant measures to protect passengers from high-voltage discharge in event of a crash. A shielded field cable is included to ground the current, ensuring that body of the car need never ground the charge should there be crash damage. Batteries are placed centrally in the car to keep them out of the Ďcrumple zonesí while reinforced plates protect them, making it unlikely they would actually be affected at all, in event of a front, side or rear collision. Volvo has also reinforced the front of the car to compensate for the loss of the combustion engine which would usually help distribute some of the crash impact. The added weight of the car caused by those batteries also means that there is more force in an impact, so a frontal aluminum structural plate is added to offset that. Oddly, the car maker expects that in event of a collision with pedestrian, the C30 electric might actually be less dangerous to the unlucky casualty thanks to the increased under-bonnet clearance.
Converting the C30 to electric drive has resulted in making Volvoís smallest car that bit smaller, by raising the floor a little and compromising boot space a bit. A snug hatchback in the first place, it is fairly tight in the rear and headroom is limited in the back, although Volvo has been careful not to rob passengers of space in converting it to an electric model. There is much to like about the C30 though, as Volvoís entry level model. Its sleek two door coupe shape, four comfortable seats and stylish interior mean itís a good model for a young executive with occasional passengers to accommodate. Plus itís by far, Volvoís trendiest looking car.
A bit of a non-starter here. As a limited production EV, Volvo wonít even tell us how much it cost to produce the first examples. Thatís fair enough, the costs are likely to be astronomical, but if production increases, expect Volvo to aim for the same price range as the Nissan Leaf at £23,990 with a government subsidy. That is assuming that the C30 electric does actually make it to full production, Volvo has yet to make any firm plans on its next move in releasing an EV, although it does intend to have a full range of electric and plug-in hybrid cars by 2020. For now, the first businesses and authorities to lease the C30 electric will pay over £1,000 a month for the privilege. When Volvo does release an EV, its appeal will lie in its freedom from company car tax, road tax and the London congestion charge coupled with free parking and recharging from public charging points. Even if itís recharged at home, it will cost just a couple of pence per mile in electricity- a fraction of the cost of diesel or petrol.