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Review: Volvo C30 Electric car

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Volvo C30 electric car Usually, the thought of going to Bracknell to test drive a Volvo wouldn't fill me with that much excitement.

Fortunately this invite was a little different because it was to check out a car that to all intents and purposes looks and feels like a petrol car, only gets its power from the electricity mains.

At a time when most energy efficient cars are either 'hybrid' vehicles like the Toyota Prius using a mixture of electricity and petrol, or smaller electric cars like the G-Whizz, the Volvo C30 Electric stands out for being, well, a normal Volvo C30 family car - at least at first glance. Of course there are lots of differences that the boffins from Gothenburg could bore you stupid about over a pint of overpriced Swedish beer.

Open up the bonnet, for example, and rather than a big oily engine you are greeted with what can only be described as a giant fuse box with lots of neat orange cables. And running through the centre of the car under the floor is a big heavy Lithium Ion battery, like you find in a laptop or in a mobile phone, only much, much bigger.

This provides the charge for the car. Volvo claims the C30 Electric car can currently has a range of 150 Km and needs to be charged for around 8 hours using conventional AC power mains (there is a 1 hour quick charging point on the car but as yet there aren't any places where this could be used.)

low_INTL_31329.jpgAs you might expect from a brand so closely with safety, Volvo has done a lot of safety checks already. You only have to type 'Lithium Ion Battery Explode' into YouTube to see the dangers of using electricity which means that a lot of work has gone into ensuring that if the car is hit that the battery doesn't go up in flames. Always an added bonus!

This means, for example, ensuring that the passenger seats aren't pushed into the middle of the vehicle where the battery is situated if it's hit from the side. So far 11 vehicles have been crash tested but there are bound to be many more before the vehicle goes into mass production in 2014.

So how does the Volvo perform? Rather well I thought. The weirdest thing about it was it was so quiet that I hadn't even realised I had turned the engine on. (Pedestrians will definitely have to learn to look for cars when crossing the road rather than just listening out for them if they want to avoid being bounced over the bonnet of an electric car.)

The automatic vehicle handled rather well considering the extra weight of the battery and added safety features and I managed to get the car up to around 100Km/h (62 miles per hour) on a test track designed to look and feel like a normal single carriageway road without even noticing.

Volvo claims that top speed is around 130Km/h and it can go 0-62 miles per hour in 11 seconds. Obviously that doesn't make it the quickest car in the world, but it does offer much better performance than today's electric cars. Volvo reckons its performance is roughly similar to a 1.6 litre diesel engine car which sounds about right.

The first batch of production models will be available from next year, but with the Lithum Ion battery alone currently costing $80,000 I'm guessing the Volvo C30 Electric won't be exactly cheap though official prices have yet to be announced. For the rest of us mere mortals without money to burn I think it will be at least a three year wait before this particular electric dream becomes a reality.

So would I buy one? Well yeah, providing it is affordable (ie. not considerably more expensive than a petrol car) and easy to fill up. After all one of the biggest challenges will be providing enough points where you can charge the vehicle.

Those with their own garages will be able to use their own home's mains power but for those who have their cars parked on the street it's simply not practical to have cables running across the pavement! For electric cars to really represent the future a lot of work has to go into building the infrastructure first.

Below check out our rough cut YouTube videos from the test driving day.

Volvo


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