Volvo's electrification push expanding to every corner of the market


2019 Volvo S60

2019 Volvo S60

Enlarge Photo

When it launches its 2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered next year, the Swedish automaker will nearly complete a startling turn toward electrification in less than a decade that began with a small-volume wagon in 2011 and will soon incorporate a full battery electric vehicle and every model in showrooms.

Later in 2019, for buyers in the U.S., the transformation will go further.

According to Volvo, all of its models will be available with either hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric options in 2019. Although Volvo's model range is relatively small compared to other luxury and mainstream automakers, nearly every segment is covered: crossover, sedan, full-size, mid-size, compact, and wagon.

Volvo now offers three versions of a plug-in hybrid powertrain: a T8 Twin Engine, which pairs a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter inline-4 to a 10.4-kwh lithium-ion battery available in the XC90, XC60, S60, and V90; a new T6 Twin Engine powertrain that pairs the same 2.0-liter turbo-4 to a lower-output electric motor and 10.4-kwh battery that is available in the V60 and S60; and a third T5 Twin Engine powertrain that pairs a turbo-3 and 9.7-kwh battery in Volvo's small cars, such as the XC40.

2019 Volvo S60

2019 Volvo S60

Enlarge Photo

Officials from Volvo didn't specify when the T6 Twin Engine or T5 Twin Engine would be available in the U.S. but said both would be a "pretty good bet." Both are more efficient than their gas-only counterparts and can run on electric power alone.

But electrification not only figures into Volvo's long-term march toward fuel efficiency, but with the launch of its own performance Polestar brand last year, electrified powertrains also figure into the automaker's performance portfolio too.

"The idea of the Polestar brand is to actually base our work on (electrification)," said Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar. "When we go into electrification of the (small and large-car platform) technology, that's a base for us to build our cars on it."

Ingenlath said Polestar would be an electrified Tesla and Porsche competitor in the future, not a competitor to in-house tuners such as Mercedes-Benz's AMG or BMW's M-Series, as it once was.

Currently the only models in Volvo's range without electrified options in the U.S. are the V90 full-size wagon, V90 Cross Country tall wagon, and XC40 compact crossover. A T8 plug-in hybrid V90 is sold in other countries and Volvo announced in April a T5 plug-in powertrain for the XC40. Both are expected in the U.S.

2019 Volvo S60 Reveal in South Carolina

2019 Volvo S60 Reveal in South Carolina

Enlarge Photo

Volvo also announced this week that its high-performance S60 sedan would be branded "Polestar Engineered" and would only be available as a plug-in hybrid. Previous Polestar models had been high-performance versions of gasoline models.

That's a seismic shift for Volvo, who once relied on diesel powertrains in every model and looked to be financially adrift when Ford announced it would sell off the brand in 2008.

Research and development chief Henrik Green said this week that Volvo would not only offer a fully electric vehicle soon, but also make money on each car sold. Green said the cars would initially appeal to buyers who can charge cars at home, where a majority of EV owners charge, but would eventually spread to more models as urban charging infrastructure improved.

"If you live in somewhat of a more dense city...say the center of Hong Kong, it would be very difficult to charge your car if your garage wasn't so-equipped." Green said. "If you cannot charge at your house it would be an inconvenience. Then you would rather go for a hybrid for quite a while."

 
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