Volvo Cars (Volvo) closed out June with a globally broadcast Tech Moment event featuring wide-ranging discussions about its future goals and how it plans to achieve them. Volvo positioned itself as a technology company about to take significant leaps forward in computerization, electrification, infotainment, connected vehicle services, safety, and design. The company also introduced its new Volvo Concept Recharge concept vehicle, which previews a new flagship model for the brand and embodies its next-generation approach to technology.
With its transition to electric vehicles, Volvo is moving toward the software-defined car. Software developed in-house will form the foundation of a new proprietary operating system called VolvoCars.OS. This in-house approach, the company believes, will allow it to respond to customer requirements, improve the user experience, and offer new products and services while ensuring maximum levels of system security faster.
Volvo will continue to work with partners, such as NVIDIA and Google, to optimize its new operating system. Additionally, the company's Innovation Portal will continue to make third-party application and service development possible. Regular over-the-air software updates will keep vehicles current, the underlying hardware designed for as long a shelf-life as is possible so that, as Volvo says, its vehicles will no longer be at their best the moment they leave the factory.
From the customer's perspective, the new user interface (UI) in the Volvo Concept Recharge pairs a horizontal driver information display mounted above the steering wheel with a portrait-style 15-inch touchscreen. According to Volvo, the goals of the new UI include serenity, simplicity, and safety. From Volvo's perspective, more is not better, and the displays will present data in the proper context and minimalistic fashion while facilitating seamless transitions between apps and platforms.
The infotainment technology is Google Android-based, and a next-generation smartphone app, including digital key capability, aims to simplify a Volvo owner's life. For example, it integrates charging partners for a smooth, seamless charging and payment process. Volvo also incorporates smart-home and smart-device functionality into its new systems. It will offer standard natural voice recognition and an available head-up display to limit the potential for driver distraction further.
Advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) will leverage lidar, cameras, and radar to maximize safety as Volvo pursues a "zero collisions goal." When it goes into production in 2022, the first implementation of Luminar-supplied lidar will give Volvo's new flagship SUV and the upcoming Polestar 3 the "best autonomous drive hardware on the market."
Combined with a two-camera driver monitoring system, Volvo intends to offer supervised driving assistance (commonly known as Level 2 capability) and, ultimately, unsupervised driving assistance (Level 3 and higher). The company's "drive, cruise, ride" approach to ADAS will roll out gradually, starting with limited-access highways and eventually including a broader array of approved roads and driving environments, such as different kinds and varying degrees of weather. Ultimately, in the "ride" phase, a Volvo will offer unsupervised driving capability, allowing occupants to focus on other things.
Forming the foundation for all this technological innovation, next-generation batteries will provide higher energy density and faster recharging times. Their smaller size and lighter weight will make upcoming electric Volvos more efficient. For example, Volvo's partnership with Northvolt will result in next-generation cell chemistry approaching the capabilities of solid-state technology combined with improvements in sustainable materials sourcing and battery production.
Batteries tailor-made for Volvos will ultimately supply a range of up to 900 kilometers (560 miles) on the WLTP cycle. Volvos, with this next-generation technology, will be compatible with 350-kW DC fast chargers. Volvo also says bi-directional charging will allow a customer to charge the vehicle overnight when electricity rates are low and power a home from the vehicle's battery during the day when rates are high.
To showcase what's coming next from Volvo, the company debuted the Concept Recharge vehicle. It illustrates how Volvo will evolve its current design language, applied to the different proportions of a dedicated EV. Thor's Hammer headlight and vertical taillight motifs define each end of the Volvo Concept Recharge. In place of a grille, the SUV wears an illuminated Volvo ironmark and diagonal line. Large, aerodynamically efficient wheels are pushed out to the corners of the SUV, which has a short hood and a low, tapered roofline, including a panoramic glass panel and the lidar unit.
The 5-passenger interior adopts a Scandinavian living room theme, Volvo taking full advantage of the flat vehicle floor and natural, sustainable materials to craft a welcoming, serene cabin. Children will like the rear seat cushions, which raise to ensure they can see out while continuing to maximize their safety.
A production version of the Volvo Concept Recharge is coming, and the company says it will have an actual name instead of an XC-based alphanumeric designation. It will serve as Volvo's new flagship vehicle as the company rolls out its new electrified vehicle platform, infotainment systems, safety technologies, and other innovations in the years ahead.