In a demonstration of the Volvo C30 Drive Electric's road-worthiness, the company let us drive this electric car around the streets of Los Angeles. We found the car plugged in and waiting for us in the convention center parking garage.
Volvo used its C30 model for its test electric vehicle because it is the smallest and lightest model in the lineup. This particular version of the C30 has also been optimized for lightness and aerodynamics.
Throughout the day, Volvo let journalists take the car for short drives in downtown Los Angeles, plugging it in to a convenient outlet back in the garage. We took our drive late in the day, and found the charge level of the battery almost full, which should let it travel just short of its 94-mile range.
Although using traditional analog gauges, this instrument cluster has been adapted for the C30's electric drive system. The gauge on the left shows speed and battery level, and the gauge on the right shows power use and recharge. Lifting off the accelerator sends the power use needle into the recharge area, but hitting the brakes does not. The brake pedal is connected to traditional friction brakes, and does not initiate regeneration.
This short electronic drive mode selector was easy to operate. Rather than snicking it into gate positions, it returns to a central position. We pulled it back to put the car into Drive mode, and pushed it forward for neutral or park. Pulling it back twice put the car into what Volvo calls sailing mode, which disengages regeneration to let the car coast more freely. This mode is intended for freeway or highway use.
The car we drove had the well-worn look of a test vehicle, but Volvo also displays a C30 Drive Electric on the show floor. This car, although much cleaner, is a working representation. Although still in testing, Volvo has begun to produce the car for fleet use in partnership with various European government agencies. It is also considering launching a test fleet in California, all of which could lead to production for private sales.
The interior of the Volvo C30 Drive Electric offers the same sort of premium fit and finish as in its gasoline vehicles. Like the standard C30, this electric version has a navigation screen that pops up out of the top of the dashboard. Volvo says it will include screens that show power usage and range in more detail than the instrument cluster.
Volvo developed its electric power train control components and software, and sources the drive motor and batteries from suppliers. The drive motor sits under this tangle of high-voltage wires and control components, and the battery is built into the rear and middle of the car.
Volvo uses an Enerdel lithium ion battery pack from Ener1, built in Indiana. This 24kWh battery pack gives the C30 a range of 94 miles and acceleration to 62 mph in around 10 seconds. One part of the pack sits in the transmission tunnel, and the other is mounted under the rear seats. As a safety factor, Volvo made sure the battery pack was clear of the car's crumple zones, so it would not be penetrated in an accident.