Last week, we headed to Kiruna, Northern Sweden, where Volvo showed us just how its C30 electric car coped with harsh winters in the frozen arctic.
Thanks to an interview with Volvo C30 Electric program manager Annelie Gustavsson, we’ve already explained the theory of keeping the C30 and its occupants warm and functional in extreme cold.
Now it’s time to tell you how the car fared in a real-life situation.
While the weather in Kiruna regularly dips to below -20 degrees Fahrenheit during the middle of winter, our visit coincided with a heat wave of 30 degrees.
To give us a taste of how well the C30 electric performed in colder weather, Volvo prepared our test car by leaving it overnight in a large chiller container set to a temperature of -13 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stepping into the chiller and into the car we were immediately hit by the cold air. Everything form the gear lever to the seat and steering wheel was unbelievably cold, but as soon as the ignition was switched on the car started to heat up.
Volvo C30 Electric Arctic Test DriveEnlarge Photo
The first sensation of heat came from our heated seats, which warmed through the thick arctic cold weather gear we were wearing.
Then, the ice started to clear from the window, both on the outside and inside thanks to the quick-acting Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heater.
Then, within a few minutes, the inside begun to feel noticeably warm. With all glass now defrosted, we were able to move out onto the test track.
After five minutes, the 12 kilowatts of heating power had warmed the entire car to a pleasant 70 degrees Fahrenheit -- so hot that we begun to feel uncomfortable in our winter weather gear.
Soon, both electric heating elements had switched off, leaving just the ethanol heater to keep us warm. Even on its own, the ethanol heater provided more heat than we needed.
Thanks to a warm battery pack, performance felt no different at -13 degrees Fahrenheit than it did when we drove the car in much warmer weather last year.
Our verdict? The C30 electric has the best heating system of any electric car we’ve driven. Even without the help of its 5 kilowatt ethanol heater, the car’s 7 kilowatts of electric heating is far more impressive than any other electric car we’ve seen to date.
Yes, if you choose, the C30 burns E85, which contains 15 percent gasoline. But at an efficient rate of 0.13 gallons per hour, it is far more efficient and environmentally responsible than relying on a traditional gasoline car.
What is perhaps most impressive, is that Volvo doesn’t intend to bring the C30 to market as an electric car. Instead, what we drove was only a prototype, with Volvo representatives hinting that Volvo has something truly amazing planned for its future commercial plug-in cars.
Volvo provided airfare, meals and lodging to enable us to bring you this report