Volvo imagines its electric car of the future
Sadly, Volvo's future electric car concept doesn't fly, but it has a radical design and is more sustainable.
The Concept Recharge by Volvo won't go on sale, but it serves as a preview of what the Swedish carmaker's future vehicles might look like.
Concept Recharge highlights
Honestly, the interior materials list for the Concept Recharge makes it sound like a piece of high-end Swedish furniture.
The electric car features plenty of recycled or natural components.
The cloth seat backrest and dashboard top are clad in Swedish wool – all responsibly sourced, naturally. The result is a completely organic and breathable material, that is additive-free. Complementing the wool upholstery is a 100% wool carpet that adorns the lower doors and floor (Rolls-Royce, look out!).
Volvo describes its seat upholstery material choice as environmentally responsible. It's derived from cellulose, the primary organic component in plant cells (and also the most abundant organic biopolymer on Earth). Reportedly, it's a tough yet soft-to-the-touch fabric that is the product of a water and energy-efficient manufacturing process.
The seat backs, head rest and elements of the steering wheel are covered in Volvo's in-house material, Nordico. It comprises of recycled corks, plastic bottles and "bio-based" (from sustainable Swedish and Finnish forests) ingredients. Consequently, it has nearly a 75% smaller carbon footprint than leather.
Other sustainable materials used throughout the interior include composites derived from the flax of the linseed plant.
Even externally, the Concept Recharge uses flax composites in the place of conventional plastics. The front and rear bumpers, as well as the sill mouldings, are made from the stuff.
The resulting interior looks highly cohesive – you'd never guess its heavy reliance on recycled and alternative products. It's extremely elegant in appearance, with the seats resembling something from a sci-fi film. The rear seats even have foot rests, which must be a first for a passenger car.
Other car makers are taking similar approaches, with cars like the Nissan Leaf already having interiors made with up to 60% recycled bottles.
We're not talking retreads. No, instead Volvo partnered with Pirelli to create special tyres for the Concept Recharge.
Apparently, the tyres contain zero mineral oil and are almost fossil material-free (94%). Their components include natural rubber, silica extracted from sugarcane waste, wood pulp fibre and a biologically-sourced resin. It's fascinating to hear about the alternate materials available for manufacturing tyres that align more fully with the green ambitions of the electric car.
Beyond the tyre compound, the design helps to maximise range.
Aerodynamic SUV body
This might be the least SUV-like SUV ever designed. It has an extremely low profile, with a prolonged, sweeping roofline that trails into a compact tail.
These design choices, including the more upright rear end and body curves that reduce aerodynamic turbulence, help make the Concept Recharge more energy-efficient.
The wheels are also forged with aerodynamics in mind.
Thanks to the SUV body style, it means the interior is immensely accommodating with heaps of room. Plus, the electric powertrain allows for a completely flat floor.
All-in, Volvo understands the Concept Recharge would have an 80% smaller lifecycle carbon dioxide impact than a 2018 XC60 SUV model.
Volvo's climate plans
By 2030, Volvo will sell electric cars only and has set the goal of becoming greenhouse gas-neutral by 2040.
Volvo Concept Recharge: Summary
It's great to see cars like this. Though it's not likely to reach the production stage, it gives us an insight into how transportation looks set to mature. We also learn about the kind of materials we'll find in our cars in the not-so-distant future.