The goal is set: by 2030, all premium cars from Volvo Cars will be 100% electric. That is the Swedish brand’s goal, now it remains to be seen how they expect to meet the environmental commitments set for the next decade. “We are at a very important moment in our development and want to create the best models of our 94 years of history,” revealed Håkan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo Cars.
The next generation of Volvo’s cars will be, as such, the safest, but also with simple connectivity and levels of advanced autonomous driving, promises the Swedish brand. Starting with safety, Volvo Cars points out that it has been able to develop the most innovative technologies in the automobile industry, but wants to go further and process data in real-time.
With prior authorization from customers, and by allowing active client participation, the Gothenburg-based car manufacturer intends to make continuous improvements to the safety of its vehicles. Among the data collected will be information from the car’s surroundings obtained through the LiDAR sensor, developed by Luminar.
And, as far as autonomous driving is concerned, Volvo Cars assures that it will be able to validate and verify more quickly the data provided by millions of kilometers obtained from thousands of cars around the world. This will be, in fact, a “very significant” advance compared to the amount of data obtained through tests already done on a limited number of vehicles, notes a company source.
To process the data collected in real-time, Volvo Cars and Zenseact are investing in a factory capable of storing more than 200 PebiBytes of data (225 million gigabytes). Customers will be able to choose the type of data allowed and all information will be aggregated according to data protection policies. By combining high-end hardware with software from Volvo Cars, Zenseact and Luminar, the company will provide a new safety package aimed at reducing accidents.
Developing its own in-house software is another of the brand’s ambitions to respond quickly and flexibly to the needs of the industry. The next generation of electric models will be supported by VolvoCarsOS – a program that will perform over-the-air updates and incorporate the various vehicle and cloud OS operating systems into OS environments, including Automotive OS, QNX, AUTOSAR and Linux.
VolvoCars.OS will also provide access to in-car features through a variety of application programming interfaces (APIs), including the already announced Extended Vehicle API. Programmers can thus create services and applications for the brand’s cars. “Just like a smartphone or computer, the new software can be integrated quickly through over-the-air updates, making the car better and better over time,” Henrik Green, Chief Technology Officer at Volvo Cars, explained in a press release.
Greater autonomy and faster charging are, on the other hand, the path that the brand is also taking to achieve total electrification of its vehicles. The goal, however, will only be achieved by improving the lithium-ion technology of the second generation of zero-emission models, which will begin with the Volvo XC90.
By 2025, the company plans to launch the third generation of electric models with the battery pack already on the car’s floor, using the structure of cells to improve the overall rigidity, range and efficiency of the vehicle. In the short term, Volvo Cars also plans to work with Swedish battery company Northvolt to increase the energy density in its battery cells by up to 50 percent compared to what is on the market.
And by the end of the decade, the goal is to break the 1000 Wh/l energy density barrier to achieve 1.000 km of the actual range. Current charging times are expected to be halved as early as 2025, thanks not only to battery technology but also to improved charging software.
The strategy also involves collaborating with Northvolt to improve the energy from electric batteries produced solely from renewable sources. According to Volvo Cars’ timetable, the idea is to do the same with all other battery suppliers by 2025. But the second life of batteries is also an important dimension with the Swedish brand developing several projects for their reuse or energy storage.
The upcoming New Volvo XC90, incidentally, will already offer customers the possibility of bi-directional charging, allowing excess battery electricity to be discharged into the grid. That means it will be possible for owners to supply power to the grid when prices and CO2 emissions related to electricity production are at their peak, charging their cars when these come down.
Volvo Cars’ next-generation models will also continue to deepen the strategic collaboration with Google. The idea – reinforces the brand – is to further enhance the entertainment and connectivity experience through the infotainment system powered by Android – Automotive OS with the integration of Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play.
This approach will become part of VolvoCars.OS, starting with Android Automotive OS and a new embedded display vision. By combining engineering and design, Volvo and Google will prioritize and separate the most relevant information for the driver on a high-resolution display (speed or battery life for example).
A head-up display will also be included with the essential information in front of the driver so that he or she never takes their eyes off the road. Future Volvo models will be equipped with a larger central touch screen with easy-to-read information just a touch away or voice command activation.
No less important, the car manufacturer points out, will be the “even more seamless” integration with smartphones, which will be able to be used as a key. The Volvo Cars app (which recently replaced the Volvo On Call app) is even more connected, enabling new functions such as finding the nearest charging station, paying for charging, or connecting to home appliances. These are some of the new features that will add to the remote functions available such as pre-heating or cooling the passenger compartment.