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Polestar Precept reveals exciting future for Volvo EV brand

Polestar Precept Geneva 2020

Polestar has revealed the Precept concept ahead of its debut at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show. It’s an ‘expression of intent’, designed to show Polestar’s future design and philosophical direction. It might have already snagged the title of Geneva 2020’s coolest concept.

Even the name ‘Precept’ tells the car’s story, meaning ‘a manifesto of things to come, a declaration’. For Polestar, it’s the biggest diversion yet away from parent company Volvo in terms of design and ambition.

Polestar Precept Geneva 2020

“Precept is a declaration, a vision of what Polestar stands for and what makes the brand relevant,” says Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar.

“The car is a response to the clear challenges our society and industry face. This is not a dream of a distant future, Polestar Precept previews future vehicles and shows how we will apply innovation to minimise our environmental impact.”

Firstly, that styling. It’s a proper knockout, isn’t it? It might be the first EV design to do away with the internal combustion design trope of an air intake at the front, and look good for it. Polestar says the grille has been replaced by a ‘Smartzone’. Instead of an inlet, there’s an arsenal of sensors to aid the car’s autonomous efforts.

‘From breathing to seeing. An area which once channelled air to radiators… now houses technology for safety sensors and driver assistance’, says the company. In the Smartzone are two radar sensors and a high-definition camera, while at the top of the glasshouse is a lidar pod.

Polestar Precept Geneva 2020

Otherwise, Polestar says the design ethos for the Precept is ‘minimalistic athleticism’. You can see its Volvo roots, but there’s more definition and much more aggression. The ‘Thor’s hammer’ lighting has been split into two pieces, for example, for a more Polestar-specific design.

The styling is also aimed at improving aerodynamics. The integrated front wing gets air flowing over the car more efficiently, while the rear features vertical aero elements integrated into the light bar.

The Precept is also designed to be practical, with a large 3.1-metre wheelbase and a boot that latches high up for a large aperture. 

Polestar Precept Geneva 2020

“Polestar Precept’s aesthetics are rooted in cutting-edge technology rather than looking back in time at historical, automotive references,” said Maximilian Missoni, head of design at Polestar.

On the inside, Polestar has pushed the envelope of sustainable material use. New flax-based composites for cabin panels and seat-backs shave weight by 50 percent, and plastic waste by 80 percent. In place of leather comes a 3D-knitted fabric made from recycled PET bottles. The seat bolsters and headrests are made of recycled cork vinyl and the carpets from reclaimed fishing nets.

Polestar Precept Geneva 2020

In terms of technology, the new portrait 15-inch centre touchscreen and 12.5-inch driver display use a next-generation interface powered by Android. Very Tesla-esque, but a generation or two ahead. The instrument cluster also houses driver monitoring sensors, including eye-tracking.

Curiously, no mention is made of what powers the Precept, besides how the ‘large battery pack’ and its location in the car enable its sleek looks.

You’ll be able to see the Precept at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, March 5-15, in Hall 5. We wonder if Mr Musk will pay the stand a visit.

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Volvo could slash UK car range after Brexit

Blockchain Volvo battery ethics

Volvo could cut the number of cars available to UK customers after Brexit. That’s the stark warning from chief executive Hakan Samuelsson.

This comes following comments from Sajid Javid, UK chancellor of the exchequer, who hinted that Britain intended to split from EU regulations following Brexit. The chancellor told the Financial Times that Britain intended to become a “rulemaker”, forcing companies to “adapt” to a new environment.

He later clarified the comments, saying the UK wanted the freedom to set its own rules, and was not seeking to ditch EU guidelines.

In the Financial Times, the Volvo CEO suggested that certifying some cars for the British market would not be worth the cost if Britain pressed ahead with plans to carve out its own standards. 

“If that happened it would be very negative, the number of cars for UK consumers would be much smaller than today,“ he warned.

It would be “very, very costly” to make cars compliant with a new set of rules.

British cars are built to the same standards as EU vehicles, but things could change following Brexit. Car manufacturers would be forced to pay for additional crash tests and customised emissions standards. The cost would run into millions, which could encourage other carmakers to trim their model range in the UK.

The result: reduced choice for the UK car buyer.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Brexit secretary Steve Barclay said the UK was interested in setting its own rules in areas of new technology “where we want to move quickly”, but said “we’re not going to diverge just for the sake of it”.

‘Monumental challenge‘

Reducing emissions on Clean Air Day

In a separate challenge for car manufacturers, there’s increasing pressure to cut CO2 emissions. Average new car CO2 emissions went up in 2019 for the third year running, which could force some manufacturers to exit the UK market altogether.

By the end of this year, 95 percent of new cars sold in the EU must meet average CO2 emissions of 95g/km. At the end of last year, the figure was 127.9g/km. The UK’s departure from the EU means the 95g/km figure will become a UK-only target. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes called it a “monumental challenge”.

“UK CO2 needs to drop by 35 percent; we have calculated that, if petrol and diesel sales remain unchanged, pure EV sales will have to grow from 1.6 percent to 27 percent of the market, or total alternative fuel vehicle sales will have to go up 600 percent to 56 percent of the market.”

 

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review: Bjorn to be wild

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Time was that a top-end Volvo estate would pack a meaty five- or six-cylinder turbocharged engine and be driven by your local undercover constable. Today, things have changed. The cops are now in BMWs and Volvo has moved on.

The new V90 T8 Twin Engine with ‘Polestar Engineered’ input is a case in point. Pop the bonnet and you’ll see just four cylinders, but there’s a turbo and supercharger, plus clever plug-in hybrid electric power. The result is an Audi S6 rival with around 60hp more power, which starts from £3,000 less. 

Volvo V90 T8: First impressionsVolvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Firstly, the standard Volvo stuff. Spoiler alert: it’s a safe, highly accomplished family wagon. Standard kit includes Europe-wide navigation and semi-autonomous driving tech, as well as an arsenal of safety and assistance systems.

Its styling is sharp and pleasing, yet inoffensive and unpretentious. The R-Design package adds some decidedly un-Volvo sportiness, including 20-inch wheels and stylish (but fake) exhaust outlets. We love those pickaxe LED running lights, too.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

On the inside, it’s just as smooth and sleek. The Polestar seats and leather appointment throughout the cabin are superb. On the whole, build quality is excellent, although cheaper materials are there if you look hard enough.

The touchscreen user interface is a bit quirky, and we worry whether Volvo’s infotainment is losing its edge in 2020. But it’s sharp-looking and performs well – once you learn how to operate it. 

Volvo V90 T8: On the roadVolvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Volvo claims the T8 will go between 29 and 35 miles on electric power alone. We found a minimum of 20 miles could be expected in normal driving from the 11.6kWh battery. Charging takes around four hours. 

Without a lead foot, it’ll happily run in EV mode in most situations, including at motorway speeds. For short trips that would leave diesel drivers shedding a tear for their DPF, zero-emission motoring is a real bonus. Indeed, we didn’t run the engine itself until three days into our week with the T8.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Swipe in the infotainment and you can select ‘Charge’ or ‘Hold’, either forcing the internal combustion engine to add to the battery charge, or maintaining what it has for later.

Volvo V90 T8: ‘Polestar Engineered’ modeVolvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

To access the fruitier side of the T8, you roll the drive selector wheel past Pure (mostly electric) and Hybrid modes to Polestar Engineered. The digital display changes, from monitoring your power usage to a sporty red rev counter. Now you have access to the full might of the T8’s 400hp combined output. 

With it, you’ll see 62mph in five seconds – on par with the Audi S6 – and reach a top speed of 155mph. Electric power goes to the rear wheels via an 87hp 65kW electric motor, while the 2.0-litre engine’s 317hp heads to the front via a slick-shifting eight-speed auto gearbox.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

It’s quick, yet undramatic. “Oh bother, I’m already at the speed limit,” you calmly mutter, as the T8 slices down the road. What sound do you hear from the petrol engine? It’s a curious concerto: mostly four-banger gruffness and the whirr of battery regeneration. Braking is impressive for a two-tonne-plus car.

The Active Four-C Chassis adaptive dampers (a £1,500 option) keep the V90 taut when cornering. Turn-in is good, but feel is non-existent. All told, the T8 does the business, but it is business – it’s no Dancing Queen. But neither are its rivals.

Volvo V90 T8: VerdictVolvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

So… The winner takes it all, or the loser standing small? To stick with the Abba theme, we’d take a chance on the V90 T8.

You won’t go around scaring BMW M5s, but if you’re an enthusiast in the market for a fast family wagon, it’s a compelling machine. And for a competitive price.

Bought as a company car, the benefit-in-kind taxation of the 43g/km-rated T8 could be highly appealing, too. We’d suggest test-driving one first, and seeing if you like hybrid way of doing things.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine R-Design Plus: Specification

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-charged plug-in hybrid

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Power: 317hp (engine) + 87hp (electric)

Weight: 2,050kg

0-62mph: 5.3 seconds

Top speed: 155mph

Fuel economy: 25-40mpg (our testing), 97-117mpg (official WLTP results)

CO2 emissions: 49/g/km

Boot size: 560 litres

Price: From £59,655

Price as tested: £67,500

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Is your Volvo dirty? There’s an app for that

Volvo car wash app

Volvo will be the first car manufacturer in Europe to offer an app-based mobile washing and valeting service. The app works with the Volvo On Call digital services platform.

Volvo Car Mobile Wash is available anywhere. Well, anywhere within the M25 at first. It’s designed ‘for complete convenience and a premium-quality finish’. You choose a level of care within the app, with prices opening at £22 for an exterior wash.

That base price is likely subject to the size of your car, mind. Sorry, XC90 and V90 owners… Volvo expects the most popular option to be the mini-valet, which is £39.

A wash and health check for your Volvo

Blockchain Volvo battery ethics

One thing you’re unlikely to get with any other wash facility is a health check for your car. Tyre pressures, tread depth, screenwash, coolant and bodywork assessments are included. 

You book a date and location via the app, and you can pick a time to suit your schedule. You don’t actually need to be with the car, either, given you can unlock it remotely via Volvo On Call digital services.

Volvo car wash app

“We have designed this new service to be hassle-free for our customers and to provide them the kind of premium-quality valeting their car deserves,” said Mike Johnstone, Volvo UK marketing strategy director.

“It is another example of how we can use the technology and peace-of-mind security of Volvo On Call to make life easier.”

Volvo technicians will prepare fleet vehicles for winter

Volvo business winter checks

Volvo UK is supporting businesses and fleet managers as cold conditions draw in. Its technicians will be performing ‘winter-ready’ checks to make sure that Volvo company fleets are best-prepared to face harsh winter weather.

These checks include the battery, the braking system, the windscreen, wiper condition, bulbs and the fluids. All can suffer greatly, or make the car a danger to operate in cold or freezing conditions.

Volvo business winter checks

“At our nationwide network of workshops, Volvo-trained technicians are on hand to help prepare company cars for winter,” said Steve Beattie, head of business sales at Volvo Car UK.

“Checking everything from the battery and braking system to the windscreen, wiper blades, bulbs and fluids. With this support, fleet managers have peace of mind that their drivers and vehicles are ready for challenging conditions.”

Volvo business winter checks

Tyres are an area of emphasis that Volvo is advising businesses to keep an eye on, both in terms of tread depth and whether it’s appropriate to swap out for winter tyres.

The tread depth and overall condition of your tyres can be the difference between stopping in time, or not. Cold conditions are harsh on the roads. As they break up and potholes prevail, those roads become harsh on your tyres. Tyre maintenance is a year-round job that becomes even more important in winter.

Volvo S60 T8 hybrid

If the car is in the best condition it can be, the last line of defence is changing how you drive.

Beattie added: “Businesses should remind their company car drivers to take journeys steady in poor conditions. If visibility is reduced or roads are extremely wet or at risk of being icy, unnecessary journeys should be avoided and those who do drive should be more cautious and avoid risky manoeuvres which could lead to skidding.

“We also always advise drivers to carry blankets, extra warm layers of clothing and food and drinks when the weather turns wintry, just in case they or other motorists and their passengers become stranded.”

FREE electricity for Volvo plug-in hybrid drivers

Volvo plug-in free electricity offer

Volvo is giving away FREE electricity with every new plug-in hybrid vehicle sold from now until June 2020.

The electricity costs for charging the car will be calculated from May 2020 and repaid to the customer at the end of the 12-month period. Energy used will be monitored via the Volvo On Call app.

This offer applies to the entire range of Volvo plug-in hybrid vehicles, including the new XC40 T5 – the most inexpensive model, with prices starting from £41,000.

Plug-in hybrid versions of the S60, V60, S90, V90, XC60 and XC90 are also included.

Volvo is offering the deal to private and business customers, and it’s the company car driver who will receive the refund, not the employer. Volvo says this is to encourage fleet users to keep the hybrid battery charged.

‘Good habit’

Volvo free electricity offer

Kristian Elvefors, Volvo Car UK managing director, said: “At Volvo, in keeping with our Swedish roots, we’ve always taken a keen interest in looking after the environment. Our recently stated ambition to become a carbon-neutral company by 2040 shows we are serious about addressing climate change.

“It’s crucial that we help our plug-in hybrid customers understand how they can make the most of their car’s electric potential. So, by meeting their electricity charging costs for a year, we can encourage them to develop the good habit of regularly recharging their car’s battery, as well as saving them money at the same time.”

From next year, new visitors to the Volvo website will be asked whether they want to charge a car with a plug, or not. The company will also introduce new Recharge branding for its growing range of plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars.

Its aim is to reduce tailpipe emissions by 50 percent by 2025 and to become a climate-neutral business by 2040.

The Take Charge free electricity offer is valid for orders placed from 16 October 2019 to 30 June 2020. Customers must keep the vehicle for 12 months to receive the refund.

Volvo uses blockchain tech to make EVs more ethical

Blockchain Volvo battery ethics

Volvo plans to keep track of the raw materials used in its electric car batteries. By using blockchain technology, its intention is to ensure they are ethically sourced. 

The announcement follows soon after Volvo’s first fully electric car, the XC40 Recharge, was revealed. 

Blockchain Volvo battery ethics

A blockchain is a mass of digital records linked with cryptography. At each step, the journey of the material is documented. It allows Volvo to be sure it isn’t paying into unethical companies or conflicts along the supply chain.

Precious materials like cobalt, which are in high demand for car batteries, are often found in volatile and politically precarious regions of the world.

From when they are dug out of the ground to when they are used in a battery, Volvo wants its raw materials to meet guidelines set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

Blockchain Volvo battery ethics

“We have always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials,” said Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo.

“With blockchain technology, we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers.”

Volvo launches its fastest-accelerating car EVER

Volvo S60 T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered

The new Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered will accelerate to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds. This makes it the fastest-accelerating Volvo production car ever made.

That’s quicker than a Porsche 718 Cayman GTS.

What’s more, the Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered could deliver up to 27.3 miles of all-electric range and fuel economy of 104.5mpg. Proof that you can keep Greta happy and have fun at the same time.

It’s all thanks to an upgraded version of Volvo’s T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrain. Power from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is up from 303hp to 318hp to deliver a total system output of 405hp.

Meanwhile, software changes to the automatic transmissions bring quicker gearshifts and minimise the changes when cornering quickly.

New Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered

The S60 is one of three Polestar Engineered cars in the Volvo range, the others being the V60 and XC60. They’re set apart thanks to 19-inch Y-spoke alloy wheels (21-inch for XC60), black front grille surround, black chrome exhaust tailpipes, plus gold brake calipers, seatbelts and Polestar badges.

Under the skin upgrades include Brembo brakes for the S60 and V60, Akebono brakes for the XC60, along with Ohlins adjustable shocks and a strut bar shared with the 600hp Polestar electric hybrid coupe.

The S60 and V60 Polestar Engineered cars are based on the R-Design Plus model, with the addition of a heated steering wheel, Harman Kardon audio system and aluminium front tread plates.

The XC60 Polestar Engineered is based on the R-Design Pro, but adds metallic paint.

Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered fastest-acclerating

The price for the fastest-accelerating production Volvo? The S60 Polestar Engineered costs £56,105, while the slightly slower V60 (0-62mph in 4.6 seconds) costs £57,205. You’ll pay £64,545 for the XC60, which can sprint to 62mph in 5.4 seconds.

Matt Galvin, Volvo Car UK’s sales director, said: “These new Polestar Engineered cars perfectly illustrate Volvo’s approach to electrified performance.

Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered interior

“By combining a powerful plug-in hybrid set-up with the engineering expertise of Polestar, they offer scintillating performance with the ability to run in electric-only mode, thus creating no tailpipe emissions.

“We’re sure this pure, progressive performance will be a hit with customers who want a distinctive, exclusive and efficient high-performance car.”

All Polestar Engineered cars are available order now, with first deliveries expected by the end of the year.

Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered seats

Volvo XC40 Recharge

Volvo XC40 Recharge: electric SUV has sports car speed, 250-mile range

Volvo XC40 Recharge

Volvo has revealed its first ever all-electric car, the XC40 Recharge. An EV version of the increasingly popular XC40 compact SUV, it combines a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds with an EV driving range of nearly 250 miles. 

The XC40 Recharge P8 AWD has two electric motors, giving a total of 408hp. It’s a planet-saving performance car in sheep’s clothing. 

Volvo XC40 Recharge

As for the name ‘Recharge’, that’s Volvo’s branding for all its future electric cars and it’s going to release one every year between now and 2025. 

Volvo XC40 Recharge

By then, EVs will comprise 50 percent of its overall sales. The rest? Electrified plug-in hybrids (with not a normal engine in sight). 

Volvo says the XC40 Recharge’s batteries will, ahem, recharge from zero to 80 percent in 40 minutes. Total battery capacity is 75 kWh. 

Volvo XC40 Recharge

The electric XC40 will go on sale in 2020, and Volvo says it will build its website around promoting EVs. When customers visit, they will first be asked if they want a Volvo Recharge or not – making them consider electric right from the start. 

“We have said this several times before: for Volvo Cars, the future is electric,” said CEO Hakan Samuelsson. “Today we take a major new step in that direction with the launch of our fully electric XC40 and the Recharge line.” 

Recharge will also comprise plug-in hybrids: Volvo is the only firm to sell a plug-in hybrid variant of every model it sells. 

Volvo XC40 Recharge

The XC40 Recharge is also the first Volvo to feature a Google Android-based infotainment system. This, says the firm, takes connectivity to a new level. 

It is fully integrated with the Volvo On Call connectivity system and, for plug-in hybrid drivers, will let them show off to their friends how much time they spend driving in electric mode. 

To meet demand for Recharge models, Volvo plans to triple production capacity for its electrified cars. 

Driver back pain costing the country billions

Uncomfortable car seats

Are you sitting comfortably? Not if new research into back pain caused by uncomfortable car seats is anything to go by.

More than a third of UK drivers have taken at least one day off work every year for back pain. The cost to the economy is a staggering £8.8 billion in productivity.

The survey of 2,000 drivers who use a car for work purposes shines a light on our inability to sit comfortably behind the wheel. Back pain affects 80 percent of the population and is a leading cause for sick leave in the UK.

Of the 32.4 million people employed in the UK, more than two-thirds use their car to drive to work or for work purposes.

Of these, 12 percent have taken two days off for back pain, while 13 percent have been off for four days. Five percent were absent for a full working week, and 5 percent asked for seven or more days of rest.

According to Volvo Car UK, the company behind the research, seat comfort is a top priority for 63 percent of UK drivers. Around a fifth of drivers have actually swapped a car for a model with more comfortable seats.

‘Comfortable and pain-free’

Driver back pain

Kristian Elvefors, Volvo Car UK’s managing director, said: “Back pain from poor quality car seats is a bigger problem than many think.

“Not only is it costing the UK economy billions in lost productivity as employees take sick leave, but poor quality car seats are also placing an unnecessary burden on the NHS, costing hospitals and GP surgeries hundreds of millions a year.

Volvo is committed to ensuring that all of its customers, regardless of shape or size, find the seats in their car incredibly comfortable and pain-free.” 

Tommy Apell, senior attribute leader for seat comfort at Volvo, added: “At Volvo, we specifically opt to use softer foam compounds for our seats to ensure the fit is comfortable across all body shapes and sizes.

“We also specially tune our seat springs for improved comfort, with the ergonomics team working alongside designers to ensure things like seat stitching don’t create pressure points for drivers and passengers. Our lengthy development and testing programme means new seats take up to five years to move from concept to finished product.”