Volvo has stunned the automotive industry by announcing that all its cars will be battery-powered within two years.
It is an extraordinary statement from one of the most iconic car brands and underlines that the future is electric for all vehicles. Volvo is committed to selling a million EVs by 2025.
Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo president and CEO puts it bluntly: “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.”
The shock announcement comes at a time when electric vehicles (EV) are just beginning to make their mark on the auto market but have yet to achieve mass acceptance.
This is attributed to a range of causes, from lack of knowledge and price premium to concerns over performance and how far EVs can travel without recharge.
These concerns are uppermost in the minds of not only Volvo but every other car maker and are being addressed through fast-charge technology and more efficient batteries.
The price difference between internal combustion engine cars and EVs will shrink rapidly as the market expands while the industry is stepping up its efforts to promote the benefits of electric power and deepen consumer knowledge.
At the same time, there is a concerted effort by businesses, national governments and local councils to rapidly expand the number of car charging points.
In the UK, hospitality groups, offices and commercial car park groups are among those rolling out new charging points.
There is also a growing demand for charging points in the home and the EU has a draft directive requiring every new or refurbished house in Europe to be equipped with an EV recharging point.
It’s true that the current market across the world for electric and hybrid vehicles is small, accounting for 1 per cent of all sales but in the first three months of this year, there was a 38 per cent increase in new EVs being registered in Europe.
According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, EVs have taken a 3.2% share in the European market, up from 2.1% in 2015.
Volvo’s move can only accelerate adoption of a cleaner form of travel. It is owned now by Chinese car giant Geely, which has its own pollution-driven needs, given the parlous state of the air in that country.
Volvo will build five fully electric models between 2019 and 2021 with two of these will be high-end vehicles, manufactured by Polestar, the company’s performance car arm.
The company is also planning petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid and ‘mild hybrid’ 48-volt options for all models.
Volvo currently has five plug-in hybrid models that run short distances on battery power before switching to internal combustion power.
New EV models
The announcement will spark further moves by other major car manufacturers who are already turning business strategies to focus on EV, including Jaguar, Audi, Aston Martin and Mercedes who have all announced plans to launch new EV models in recent weeks.
They are joined by Renault-Nissan, BMW and VW who have unveiled ambitious plans for EVs while Japanese carmaker Honda and Hitachi Automotive Systems are launching a joint company focused on electric cars.
Challenger brand Tesla is struggling with growth pains but has swiftly established itself as a global force in the automotive industry. Its third electric car, the £27,000 Model 3, is in production and is aimed at the mass market and over 250,000 pre-production orders had been placed.
With all these moves, the road ahead is clear and clean. It is only a matter of time before electric power renders the internal combustion engine obsolete – with all the environmental and health benefits that brings.