Volvo CEO drops hints on the Volvo XC20 electric SUV [Update]

Update: ‘Volvo XC20 to ride on Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture’ and ‘Competitors & strategy’ sections updated.

Volvo Cars is developing an electric SUV smaller than the 40 Series EVs, given the working title Volvo XC20 by the web media. A report from evlook.com suggests that internally and in the supply chain, the upcoming electric car goes by the codename Volvo V216. Now let’s take a look at what we know about the urban SUV.

Will not wear a Volvo XC20/XC30 badge

We have used the ‘XC20’ name in the story for the sake of simplicity, search engine discoverability, and for the lack of a better term.

Volvo Cars is done with alphanumeric names for electric vehicles. The company is switching to a new nomenclature with its flagship Tesla Model X rival due this year, possibly called the Volvo Embla. The small electric SUV positioned below the XC40 Recharge could have an alphabetical name. Hakan Samuelsson, CEO, Volvo Cars, briefly talked about the new naming system in July 2021:

Now we’re talking about a totally new architecture, a new generation of born electric, all-electric cars with central compute, and I think it’s good and clear to mark that also this is a new beginning. And that’s why we’re not going to have sort of numbers and letters and say ancient-year type of.. We will give them a more name. And I said we will give them a name as you’re giving your born child a name. And we have a very interesting and creative discussion going on.

Hakan Samuelsson, CEO, Volvo Cars (Volvo Car Group H1 2021 results conference call on July 23, 2021)

It’s not a legal issue for Volvo to use the XC20, as the company applied for that trademark two decades ago and is still its holder in several countries including the U.S., Australia, Switzerland, and in fact, the European Union. The company also has the XC10 trademark under its belt. As the Swedes are straying from the alphanumeric tradition for the new family of electric cars, it is a strong possibility that it may never return to the XC branding.

Design & Interior

Digital artist Nicolas Fourny’s rendering of a new entry-level Volvo SUV (featured image) is quite interesting, as it also previews a model smaller than the XC40. However, there aren’t enough takers for a two-door SUV. Just ask the convertible and coupe variants of the Range Rover Evoque, which were pulled off the market after a brief period! One can safely expect the Volvo V216 with proper rear doors and access to the boot via a conventional tailgate.

Volvo XC20 concept rear three quarter sketch
Volvo is switching to unique titles for upcoming electric models, which are real names and not alphanumerics. Lukasz Myszynski’s Volvo XC-X concept pictured. Image Source: Behance

Samuelsson talked about the design of the upcoming small SUV on the sidelines of the Volvo C40 launch in March 2021, helping form a mental picture. The company feels the need for more electric SUVs and has them in its development pipeline, he added. The so-called Volvo XC20 would be “more streamlined” but still be “high”, because “people really are fond of high seating positions,” Volvo’s chief explained. It wouldn’t be as squarish as current Volvo SUVs and will have a softer roofline, aiding the aerodynamics that would improve the range. Volvo Cars could “surprise” with unconventionally designed EV models in the future, Samuelsson suggested at the Volvo Car Group half-year 2021 financial results presentation. He said:

Electrification will also change the shape of the cars; they need to be more aerodynamic, so maybe we will surprise people a bit there in the future. It’s not just the conventional cars as we have had so far.

Hakan Samuelsson, President and CEO, Volvo Car Group (Volvo Car Group half-year financial results, 2021)

As for the interior, expect Scandinavian vibes with a deep focus on functionality and minimalism. Volvo Cars may extensively use recycled, sustainably sourced materials and maybe avoid using leather in the cabin. Another key feature we expect is a digital instrument cluster with customizable layouts, most likely measuring 12.3 inches diagonally. An Android Automotive OS-based touchscreen infotainment system is a given, and it should pack all the essential Google apps and services, including Play Store, Google Maps, and Google Voice. Geely’s ECARX in-car technology could be an option for the baby crossover.

Volvo XC20 to ride on Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture

The Volvo electric SUV smaller than the XC40 Recharge was first reported by autoexpress.co.uk in 2021. At the 2020 Beijing Auto Show, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group unveiled the Lynk & Co Zero Concept. The electric SUV concept is underpinned by a new platform called ‘Sustainable Experience Architecture’. The Chinese conglomerate owns the Volvo Car Group which controls the Volvo and Polestar brands.

Geely Volvo SEA2 platform
Sustainable Experience Architecture is the world’s first open-source EV architecture and is designed for a global 5-star safety standard. Image: ZGH

During the discussion with Auto Express, Samuelsson revealed that the Volvo SUV smaller than the XC40 could be an all-electric model and off-road capability might not be a focal point. Samuelsson spoke to the British auto publication about leveraging the parent company’s new architecture. “We’ll also use SEA,” Samuelsson said. Explaining why Volvo Car Group is looking at SEA instead of CMA for the potential Volvo XC20, Samuelsson said it’s difficult to manufacture a smaller product, which would need to be cheaper, without the necessary cost and scale.

Kent Bovellan, the Chief Engineer for the SEA Architecture, discussed the SEA platform with Malaysian media in 2021, as per a report from Paultan. Bovellan revealed that SEA will have five versions spread across vehicle segments:

  1. SEA1 – D-segment (mid-size vehicles), E-segment (executive vehicles), and F-segment (full-size vehicles)
  2. SEA2 – B-segment (sub-compact vehicles), C-segment (compact vehicles), D-segment (mid-size vehicles)
  3. SEA Entry (SEA-E) – A-segment (city cars) and budget vehicles
  4. SEA Sport (SEA-S) – Sporty vehicles
  5. SEA Commercial (SEA-C) – Commercial vehicles weighing 3.5-5.5 tonnes

The small electric SUV from Volvo Cars could ride on the SEA2 platform, which will spawn the first Smart electric SUV, also a B-segment model, later this year. Smart is Mercedes and Geely’s urban mobility brand. Automakers can use the SEA2 platform to develop EVs with a wheelbase ranging between 2,650 and 2,900 mm.

Zeekr 001 front three quarters left side
The Zeekr 001 debuted as the first SEA platform-based production model in April 2021. More specifically, it sits on the SEA1 platform. Image Source: ZGH

Where the CMA’s development took place in Sweden, the SEA was developed in China for the local market where volumes are higher for EVs. Thus, there are significant savings involved in the new platform, with the Volvo Car Group boss saying Chinese suppliers allow “a very good cost structure.”

Specifications

Volvo will bring its entry-level EV to the market as a single-motor FWD model, according to evlook.com and carmagazine.co.uk.

The battery pack options available in the SEA2 platform-based EVs will provide a range of at least around 460 km or 286 miles, suggests the Paultan report. Bovellan came up with that range considering 12.5 kWh/100 km as the power consumption figure, which means that the energy content of SEA platform-based EVs’ smallest battery pack could be 58 kWh. However, these range and energy consumption figures might not be according to the WLTP test cycle, which is more stringent and realistic than the Chinese test cycle (CLTC).

The previous speculation was that standard variants of the Volvo city hopper may not travel more than 241 km (150 miles) on a full charge in real-world conditions as it would be an urban type of vehicle, much like the Honda e or the Mini Cooper SE.

The smaller battery would also bring down the car’s price, as it is the single most expensive component in an EV, to take it well under the XC40’s starting price of about 60,000 Euros (Germany). Volvo Cars could consider a 40-45 kWh battery pack for the XC20 to match the expectations of the urban customer. Like with competitors, a long-range version (offering over 200 miles in real world) could be an option.

Volvo XC20 release date & retail

The Volvo XC20 will arrive after the production version of the Volvo Recharge Concept (Volvo Embla) that debuted in June 2021. During the Volvo Car Group half-year 2021 financial results presentation, Samulesson indicated that 2023 could be the year when it reaches showrooms. Moreover, he almost confirmed that the manufacturing of the small Volvo EV would take place in China. The evlook.com report also indicates that tenders for the equipment needed to manufacture the Volvo V216 were floating in the Chinese market last year.

Regarding timing, we’ve said the next new electric car is really the successor of our SUV flagship. That’s the first one; after that, there will be a smaller SUV, and that’s what we’re talking about here. It’s very likely it will be made in China, yes.

Hakan Samuelsson, President and CEO, Volvo Car Group (Volvo Car Group half-year financial results, 2021)
Volvo XC20 teaser
The Volvo XC20 (circled) is likely to debut in the second half of 2023 in two range variants. Image Source: Volvo Cars

Competitors & strategy

The new small SUV may arrive as an online-only model, like the C40 Recharge. Customers would get to view the vehicle in person at a dealership and take a test drive, but the order process may take place exclusively online. This process should apply to even the ‘Care by Volvo’ subscriptions.

The list of competitors would include the dedicated MINI crossover, the Smart electric SUV, and higher variants of the $25,000 Tesla EV (what we call the Tesla Model 2/Tesla Model Q). If it goes as planned, Volvo’s electric vehicles will account for 50% of global sales from no later than 2025, for the Swedish brand. By 2030, that number would change to 100% as the company will stop selling thermal-engined vehicles at the end of the decade.

Demand for Recharge plug-in hybrid and pure electric models is on the rise, giving Volvo Cars more confidence to intensify electrification. In 2020, 27% of the company’s sales (661,713 units) came from Recharge models. In 2021, Recharge models recorded solid year-over-year growth of 63.9%. The company sold a total of 189,216 Recharge models last year, with 163,489 units coming from PHEVs and 25,727 units coming from EVs. Individually, PHEV sales grew by 47.6%, while EV sales saw a whopping 452.2% growth!

Volvo XC20/Volvo V216 FAQs

What is the Volvo XC20 release date?

The Volvo XC20 could debut in the second half of 2023 as a streamlined city crossover. Note that it would carry an entirely different name.

What would be the Volvo XC20 rivals?

The Volvo XC20 would rival cars like the MINI Countryman Electric and smart SUV.

What is the expected range and specs of the XC20?

SEA platform allows 120 km (74.5 mi) range in under 5 min of charging. The high-spec XC20 could have a range of around 350 km (217 miles).

Featured Image Source: ‘Volvo SC20’ by Nicolas Fourny