Saturday 19 August 2017

Volvo switches to electric in landmark move for drivers

Volvo Cars' CEO Hakan Samuelsson. Picture: Reuters
Volvo Cars' CEO Hakan Samuelsson. Picture: Reuters
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Volvo's decision to have an electric motor in every new model it rolls out from 2019 is a landmark one for motoring - and for motorists.

It doesn't mean the sudden death of conventional combustion engines (petrol and diesel), but it emphatically symbolises a shift away from our historic near-total dependence on them.

By placing electrification at the core of its future plans, the Swedish carmaker is not definitively saying 'out with the old, in with the new', but it is saying that electrification will take an increasing share of the future.

Essentially, there will be no Volvo cars without an electric motor, as 'pure internal combustion engines' are gradually phased out and replaced by petrol/diesel cars that also have electrified options.

Hybrid

The models it is planning include full electrics, plug-in hybrids and mild hybrids.

Anywhere you see the word 'hybrid' there is electric power at play somewhere.

Volvo, a growing player on the world market thanks to multi-billion euro investment by China giant Geely, has started the ball rolling. But now the questions on electrification will rain down on other, larger, mainstream carmakers.

When are they going to make such a sweeping commitment?

Some will say they already have.

Others will announce accelerations in their drive towards electric power options.

Hardly a week goes by without one of them saying it will have four or five electric cars by 2020.

In a way Volvo hasn't so much broken the ice as speeded up the melting process.

It is not just a statement of intent but a clear indication to customers that buying electric in some shape or form is going to be the way things will be with them from now on.

Read More: Range of problems mean EVs might drive you round the bend

Multiply that message by 25 to 30 other major marques and all of a sudden the electric age will be not a distant aspiration any more, but a showroom reality.

The fact it has committed to five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021 (three will be Volvo models and two will be high-performance electrified cars from its Polestar arm) plots a starting point for buyers and sellers.

What does it all mean for Irish drivers?

Volvo here says it is not sure exactly when the first full electric models will arrive.

But regardless of time of arrival - and 2020 isn't far off - you can take it as read that our attitude to electric power in cars of myriad shapes and sizes will be firmly fixed in our minds as real, everyday motoring options.

The challenge for the Government now is to further incentivise people to buy them.

The current €10,000 subsidy (VRT rebate and SEAI grant) is generous but has not prompted a major buying spree of pure electric cars. We need tangible benefits such as the use of bus lanes, free parking and reduction/abolition of benefit-in-kind. We've got to start somewhere and commit in a comprehensive, serious fashion. Just like Volvo has - and many others will do over the coming months and years.

Irish Independent

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