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Designing Volvo’s battery electric vehicle

John Day

John Day

Posted Jan 13, 2011

At the Detroit Auto Show this week I had the chance to speak with Lennart Stegland, president of Volvo Cars Special Vehicles, about the C30 battery electric vehicle (BEV) that Volvo has been working on for the better part of two years.

Step one, logically enough, was a needs assessment, followed closely by an evaluation of prospective development partners. Some big-name automotive suppliers failed to make the cut because, in Stegland’s view, they lacked the requisite electric vehicle competence. Volvo could either wait for a supplier to acquire the BEV expertise or teach an alternative supplier how to work with an automaker.

Volvo looked closely at suppliers of lithium ion cells and came up with a short list. Not surprisingly, given the brand’s reputation for focusing on safety, non-reactive chemistry was a top priority. Volvo selected Ener1’s EnerDel as its battery partner for its combination of stability and energy storage capacity. Other suppliers, Stegland says, were very efficient in their energy storage, but their cells were much more reactive. Stegland also praises the performance of EnerDel’s batteries at extreme temperatures, and the batteries’ longevity.

Volvo’s exhibit at the auto show featured a crash-tested C30, the front of which distributed the crash, leaving the batteries and cables intact. Volvo and Enerdel designed a split battery, with half located between the seats and the other half situated under the rear seats where a gas tank would normally go. An EnerDel battery management system has multiple levels of redundancy.

Volvo plans to build about 250 C30 vehicles and test them in Europe later this year under various conditions, including climate, topography, and driving behavior, before commencing production. Stegland says the company plans to monitor the vehicles closely via telematics. Volvo also makes use of virtual prototyping technology and Stegland says the automaker has been adding knowledge to its vehicle model for the past 20 years.

Detroit Auto Show, Ener1, battery electric vehicle, Volvo, Volvo C30, EnerDel, Lennart Stegland

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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