Test Drive: Volvo XC40
Ian Lamming reduces his level of anxiety thanks to the ingenuity of Volvo
ANXIOUS, can’t help it. Always am when I’m driving an EV.
In fact it is now listed in the dictionary under nouns: “Range anxiety: The worry on the part of a person driving an electric car that the battery will run out of power before the destination or a suitable charging point is reached.”
It’s something new and yet to be experienced for the first time by anyone who has not had a play in a BEV. In fact, it’s more than a play before it kicks in. If you just borrow one from the local dealer and have a quick bazz around the block, you will undoubtedly love the experience and probably won’t even look at the distance to empty gauge.
It’s only when you live with them and you don’t have a proper home charger that you start to notice the stress building. It seems that you stare at the digits on the dash willing them not to count down. Not even sure what happens if you do run flat. Is that covered by your breakdown cover – perhaps not as it’s completely your fault.
A friend of a friend was brave enough to try and reach Heathrow from up North in his EV. Thankfully, he left plenty of time to catch his plane as his planned route, with scheduled stops for charging, went awry. The chargers were either broken or full of charging cars so the journey took him 17 hours and in the end he had to book into a hotel in Oxford. Nightmare.
Range anxiety has to be the biggest stumbling block to buying an EV but it doesn’t have to be that way, according to Volvo.
The XC40 Recharge Twin Pro has a nifty little gadget which gives you peace of mind. Yes it has the range display that counts down from its 260 mile maximum, offering best and worst case scenarios depending on how much juice you use on ancillaries – stick the back demist on, for instance, and watch the range plummet – and how heavily you use the throttle.
But it also has a readout that is linked to the satnav. Put in the postcode of your destination and it shows the percentage of charge remaining at journey’s end, having worked out, of course, the route and your driving style. And it is surprisingly accurate too. It told me I would have 33 per cent of the charge left when I got home and as I pulled into the drive it clicked on to 31 per cent, not a bad result. To be honest it might have been 33 had I not enjoyed the blistering performance the two electric motors offer – 408hp of supremely smooth, instant and very rapid power, it’s lovely.
If you are staying local then you can enjoy the oomph but if you have miles to travel then instinctively you drive with the right foot of a ballerina to preserve the precious charge.
We are all used to the XC40 and the EV only differs by having a solid front grille rather than the traditionally slatted one. No need for all that air as there is no engine to cool. There is a boot up front where you can keep the charging leads and another place under the boot floor. Storage-wise you really are spoilt for choice.
You can use the lead to plug into a three pin socket at home but it takes forever. A home charger is the best idea and you can even tap into the off-peak electricity overnight – well at the moment, anyway, as once we are all charging from home the night will no longer be off-peak, and that’s before the Government slap tax on them to replace the revenue they’ll start losing on petrol.
I’ve also noticed a huge leap in the price at the rapid charger. I could take the early electrics from 30 per cent to 90+ per cent with a less than two hour charge that would only cost £12-15. That same charge now weighs in at £34 which must be just about the same price as petrol.
The rest of the Volvo BEV is pure XC40, one of my favourite models. It is big enough without being too large, it is well equipped with an iPad-esque touchscreen that is exceptionally easy to use, a great virtual dashboard and even a handsfree tailgate feature which opens the rear at a wave of the leg near the back bumper.
Ride and handling are peerless, the cabin is quite and serene and hence never tiring and it comes with bucket loads of pride of ownership, made even better as the test car came in a lovely sage green, which was a complete head turner.
The whole experience left me far from anxious and the Recharge proved to be an excellent companion for the whole of the test period.
Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Pro
Range: up to 256 miles
0-60mph: 4.7 secs
Top speed: 112mph
Combined MPG: 0
Transmission: Automatic, all-wheel-drive
CO2 g/km: 0
Price: from £56,700.00