Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

Volvo Car Corp. today unveils the Volvo C30 electric vehicle, which will be used to validate the powertrain technology as part of an environmental-and-safety seminar recently launched in Sweden.

A small number of prototype C30 EVs have been produced and tested internally by Volvo, with much of the focus on performance and safety and the integration of the electric-propulsion system with the rest of the small car, the auto maker says.

“The Volvo C30 is the first model we will try out with electric power,” Lennart Stegland, director of Volvo’s special vehicles division, says in a statement.

“This car’s excellent properties in city traffic and its relatively low weight make it particularly suitable, since electric cars are primarily expected to be used in and around cities for daily commuting.”

Powered by an electric motor tucked under the hood, the C30 EV employs two lithium-ion battery packs that can be charged via a normal household electric socket.

The batteries, supplied by U.S.-based Ener1 Inc., can be recharged through a 230-volt outlet in about eight hours. The vehicle boasts a range of 93 miles (150 km) and a top speed of 81 mph (130 km/h), Volvo says.

One of the priorities of the project is to determine the optimal placement of the battery. In the prototypes, one battery is located in the engine bay and the other where the fuel tank normally is positioned.

“These locations are within the car’s optimized crumple zone in the most common collision scenarios,” Volvo says in a statement, noting it “theoretically identified all the electrification-related safety scenarios in the stages before, during and after a collision.

“The consumer must feel that this type of car is attractive both to drive and own,” Paul Gustavsson, Volvo director of electrification strategy, says in a statement.

“In order to ensure this, we feel that electric cars will have to be as comfortable and safe and offer similar levels of performance as cars with other power sources,” he adds. “The learning from the C30 EV project will help us to fulfill all of these criteria and showcase Volvo’s determination to drive developments in the field of electrification.”

Volvo spokeswoman Maria Bohlin says there are no plans to sell the vehicle to the public, noting, “It is primarily a research project.”

However, the auto maker does plan to offer a plug-in electric-hybrid vehicle in 2012.

Volvo’s “main electrification track over the coming decades is plug-in hybrids,” the auto maker says. “The combination of electric motor and combustion engine is the solution that probably has the greatest potential from both the technical and commercial viewpoints.”

Meanwhile, the auto maker shows a refreshed version of the production ’11 Volvo C30 at the Frankfurt auto show this week.

The car gets a redesigned fascia that Volvo says gives it a “radical new appearance from the front, carving out a distinctive personality which clearly separates (it) from the Volvo S40 and V50.”

In the center of the grill is a new, larger iron mark that’s being implemented across the Volvo lineup. The air intake also has grown, resembling the intake of the XC60 cross/utility vehicle.

“Since its introduction in 2006, the Volvo C30 has become highly appreciated for its unique appearance,” Daniel Backman, project manager, says in a statement. “This applies in particular to the rear. With the new front, it feels as though everything has fallen neatly into place and that the car’s entire personality has been boosted to an entirely new level.”

The new C30, powered by a 227-hp turbocharged 5-cyl. engine, receives a new optional sport chassis and new exterior and interior colors. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard and a 5-speed Geartronic automatic is optional.

The ’11 Volvo C30 is set to hit North American showrooms late next year.