Volvo Plots Slow Course To Fast EV Charging

By · November 14, 2012

Volvo C30 Electric

Volvo's slow and cautious approach to bringing EVs to market could pay off big, or leave it trailing the competition.

Despite a number of promising concepts from Volvo, and a fleet of more than 250 electrified C30 coupes already on European roadways, the Swedish automaker has been slow when it comes to bringing an electric vehicle to market. The company has now announced another concept: a fast-charger system, one that trims the time needed for a full recharge to only 1.5 hours. Fitted to 100 C30 Electrics, this new system, developed in cooperation with Siemens, is approximately six times faster than other on-board devices, according to Volvo’s press release.

That’s well and good, but trimming charge times is only part of the solution towards widespread EV acceptance, explained Lennart Stegland, Volvo’s vice president for electric propulsion systems, while speaking with about the fast-charger project and Volvo’s long-term EV planning. “In many, many studies there has always been a discussion about range anxiety,” said Stegland. He believes the issue is “still a relevant one,” but the fledgling EV market is proving that “EV owners are having less and less of this anxiety…they are planning their trips more, and are accustomed to the characteristics” of an electric vehicle.

A Business Approach

This new fast-charger system operates on a three-phase supply, one where the operator of the vehicle can adjust charge levels depending on the electrical supply available. In ideal circumstances, the 22-kW fast-charger can provide approximately 50 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes—albeit only when using a high voltage outlet. When operating with a 220-volt outlet, the norm in European households, charge times increase to 8 to 10 hours. Preset charge levels and adjustable usage of available amps is fine for a fleet of test vehicles, though Stegland concedes the technology is still a work in progress.

“It’s not for everyone. It’s a selective approach,” he explained, adding that the system’s primary focus is on small businesses. The C30 Electric with fast-charger targets business users that need “a personal commuting device,” a vehicle that is charged and ready “when you come back after one hour or, say, after a meeting.” While charging is fairly straightforward, controlled by a button and rotary knob, Stegland agreed that Volvo’s EV technology, like those of all automakers, is always open to improvements.

The C30 Electric is a mule vehicle, used to validate the technology for the future. Everything can be moved over to other products, according to Volvo. That’s a positive sign that Volvo’s ongoing EV powertrain, and the fast-charger system, will have a shelf life longer than the limited-run C30 coupe. “We are assessing the market possibilities all the time,” Stegland said. “The electric vehicle is a brilliant concept for a city community, but the customers are not there yet.” Sales of a Volvo-badged EV remain a “few years” into the future for U.S. car buyers, he confirmed.


· Chris O (not verified) · 5 years ago

I'm a great believer in on board fast chargers since they negate the need for charging standards; cars only need generic power outlets to plug in that are cheap to install. The Volvo effort is pretty lame though compared to the 43KW "Chameleon" charger than Renault plans to fit on its upcoming Zoe. That's a full charge in less than 30 minutes.

· · 5 years ago

I f i understood correctly, it take a specialized technical course and 40 hours of studies and an extra 25 000$ expences to be able to fast charge one electric car while you are on the road heading somewhere.

Im not interrested to buy this stupid unfinished gadjet. Please conceive a simple electric car that recharge fast for cheap anywhere. I won't use this nasa-like procedure that take maybe one year of planification before leaving my home more then 30 miles and predict if i have a chance to get back home without been electrocuted, have to wait 24 hours for a recharge, have to drive 45 minutes because the fast charger is incompatible or is taken by a big bev while i need it myself.

I want that these new technologies beginning to appear been cheaper and better then actual technology. I won't destroy my brain to figure out a way to avoid petrol .
There have been many mission to the moon by the nasa that were simpler then this mess of recharging a car on the road fast. Even with a lot of money you still cannot fast charge a car. That is because their technology is limp and badly taught to say the least

· Lad (not verified) · 5 years ago

Volvo is debating chargers? Do they even offer a production EV? I'll listen to their PR on chargers when they have a car with a plug and no gasoline engine.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

WTF is gorr ranting about?

· Iletric (not verified) · 5 years ago

NASA procedures, I think.

· Iletric (not verified) · 5 years ago

NASA procedures, I think.

· · 5 years ago

Hehe, I'm beginning to enjoy Gorr's posts more and more here. Although he never responds to me, I feel he's over time making more thoughtful comments... (Gorr you can take that as a complement).

Although several Europeans and Australians on these blogs have told me both sides of the coin, (in effect vehemently disagreeing with each other more so than with me), Gorr does have a point re: the US market at least... In Europe, 220Y/380 volt 3 phase seems to be quite common. The 277Y/480 USA and 347Y/600 Canadian analogues are far more rare, especially for household use. Now, its true that you can make anything out of anything, but I believe Gorr's point is why put up with the complication?

If every EV for the US market only had a standard 30 amp 220 volt connection, as well as optionally an 'emergency' 110 connection, I and several others would have no problem 'tolerating' that.

Charging is very much a side issue for me, I want

1). More EV's to choose from
2). Much much BIGGER battery packs (no I'm not being SILLY here.)
3). Larger EV's incorporating a lot more of (2)

The trend now seems to be to come out with a diminutive battery pack, and stretch the car into business vans, limos, etc, killing the battery range even more.

I'm here in a very cold part of the county. The heater needs a heck of a lot more juice than the rest of the car. I'm unappologetic that I need a BIG battery.

So I wish these manufacturers would start making the vehicles... Stop worrying about details.. When they do, they only screw things up most times coming out with more orphanned incompatible crap. Be satisfied with what ever horrid standards (J1772) exist and run with it... Let's build some cars to keep those battery plants open.

· · 5 years ago

@Bill Howland,
While I, too, share your all 3 of your desires, an auto manufacturer needs to temper these desires with the economics involved.
Overall, it is a whole lot cheaper to deploy a few fast chargers (unless you botch it up like the pathetic California/Ecotality debacle) and sell smaller batteries than to sell a lot of big batteries.
Even at ~$80K per fast charger installation, if you assume a dozen well-placed fast chargers can support 100,000 cars that only occasionally roam far enough off their beaten path to need them, this costs $960K. If you assume a true 120 mile battery costs between $5K and $10K more than the Leaf or Volt's basic 50 mile batteries (more with your desired larger vehicles), the total system cost for those 100,000 cars is $1 Billion (if I've kept track of all my zeros properly).
Which do you think is going to be easier to get initial financing to develop and deploy?
Remember it isn't just what we'd like. Economic practicality is a large part of the equation.
Just 1 reasonably placed fast charger somewhere along your route would make your upcoming Canada trip a walk in the park and it could be shared by everyone in the Rochester, Buffalo, and Toronto metropolitan areas.

· · 5 years ago

I mostly agree with Bill's points, but I would modify (2) to be more like (1). Rather than just put more batteries in the car, let's provide the OPTION to choose how much battery you buy. (See also the Tesla S).

I'm not as sold on the idea of placing the fast charger in the car (like this or the chameleon Chris O mentioned). How often do you use that fast charger (versus a J1772 32A/240V charger)? For most people, it will never be used at home or at work. It will be used probably once or twice a month. Maybe slightly more. Whereas if you place the charger outside the car, like CHAdeMO or Tesla's Supercharger, it can be used by many people in a day. You have to build far fewer of them as a result.

I'm liking Tesla's strategy more and more. Start with a car with enough batteries to handle your drive 6 days of the week. For the seventh day, place superchargers around at key places that all drivers can share. Oh, and build those superchargers out of the same chargers that go into the cars, just stack a dozen of them in parallel. Now you can leverage mass production quantities even for relatively few fast chargers. Brilliant!

· · 5 years ago

@Brian Schwerdt,
"I'm liking Tesla's strategy more . . . "
Now you're seeing why some of us have been dumping way more of our money into Tesla than we have on anything else in our lives.
- There are a few more things in Tesla's strategy that also make sense:
Their first car, while too expensive for most people (including most of us who bought them), creates life-altering experiences for newcomers, especially car-lovers.
- They were able to use this first car as a test-platform to mature the technologies for their second car
- They pay sufficient attention to design, engineering, and business to create products that dominate the markets they target both in cost and desirability. ie, they don't need government subsidy to be viable.

· · 5 years ago

Hear hear!

Tesla may have only produced a few thousand cars so far, but they have permanently altered the automotive landscape.

· · 5 years ago

Incidentally, I got 40 minutes on my first HPC, never had anything over 30 amps before, (I think the Tesla Store wanted a photo since I was the only "racing green" Roadster there). There should be a pic of 7 Roadsters all in a row with 2 of us - the end ones - charging). Details are 210 volts no load, 204 volts charging (208 volt system off the main mall 347Y/600 system - this is common in Canada - I found out that little detail due to construction dudes being around at the Grand Opening of the Mall Expansion and they had all kinds of questions regarding the 7 roadsters, so I asked mall construction questions back at them, hehe.).
The Universal Mobile Connector (unlike the ROadster $1500 UMC) included with a model S purchase is $500 if you want to purchase it seperately. I asked to see if a "delete" option ($500 off the list) is being offered (since I don't need it), and they said they'd have to run it by sales.
As mentioned to Ben Nead, I'm not a big fan of fast chargers, i'm neutral toward them, and certainly wouldn't want any of my tax $ going to them. I'm not a big Football fan, but even if I was I think Stadiums should be self-supporting and knock $1000 off my property taxes per year. I'm not supportive of raising my property taxes so that there can be more Gas Stations built, so my position is consistent.

I am in favor of either a 7500 or 10000 credit , since they are not giving any money back to me, they are just stealing less on years I buy an EV. I would hope battery technology is advancing. Sometimes things take TIME. Ultimately though, there only seems to be a need for rather few fast chargers. The one's I've seen are horribly inefficient ( 80%), and then the car's battery efficiency drastically cuts into even that at these high charge rates. So besides Demand Charges, electric companies love them, almost as much as when FROST FREE refrigerators started appearing.. (You use an electric heater to keep the frost off so that you can use an even bigger compressor to make more coldness). Now the FF's are getting more efficient, but at one time there were like 3 power plants in the country overall just to make up for the added use of this new-fangled appliance.

· · 5 years ago


Sorry for the delay didn't see the post. I have no clue, I thought PHILL units (natural gass compressors would be popping up all over the place, now you cant get them. I would guess Level II 30 amp if I had to make a guess.

With a decent battery, on a typical trip, u might just need enough to get a little farther. 30 amps is good enough for that. Plus easily installed in the proprieter's existing electical equipment.

· Bob Blaisdell (not verified) · 5 years ago

Semans has the answer to the electric car. Just take an existing Volvo use Semans motor in a wheel and the controller. Use the best batteries. Add a 4 cylinder engine constant speed and a generator. As technology improves take take out the batteries and engine and you have the car of the future.
Bob Blaisdell

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