Beginning in 2019, Volvo will stop producing automobiles powered solely by gasoline and will build hybrids and fully-electric vehicles exclusively, CEO Hakan Samuelsson announced in a statement Wednesday. The Sweden-based, Chinese-owned company will be the first mainstream auto manufacturer to offer only electrified vehicles.
“People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs,” Samuelsson said.
Today, only 3% of cars sold worldwide are electric, but Navigant Research expects electrified vehicles to account for about 9% of global new car sales by 2025. That year, Volvo aims to sell 1 million fully electric or hybrid cars.
Most of the electrified cars sold today are 48-volt “mild hybrids” whose electric power systems allow the engine to turn off when the car is coasting, braking, or stopped, then restart quickly upon acceleration. “Mild hybrids” also use electricity to power things like air conditioners and water and oil pumps.
All told, mild hybrids get 10-15 percent better gas mileage than traditional cars, according to Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant.
Manufacturers including GM, Chevrolet, and Toyota have offered mild hybrids options in the US. Audi and Mercedes Benz are selling mild hybrids in Europe to meet tightened fuel economy and emissions regulations. Those European cars may soon be exported into the American market.
All automakers are increasing production of hybrids, and many are expected to make announcements similar to Volvo’s in the near future. Abuelsamid predicts luxury brands will be the first to go all electric, while manufacturers with high volume models with take longer to do so.
Meanwhile, some auto companies are introducing fully electric vehicles into the mid-level market. Earlier this week, Tesla, Inc. announced plans to exponentially increase production of a one hundred percent electric car dubbed the Model 3, which it will sell for $35,000. The fully electric Chevrolet Bolt EV is comparably priced.
Volvo will roll out five fully electric offerings between 2019 and 2021.
Yet at the moment, consumers still prefer hybrids, which are generally cheaper and more practical than all-electric cars.
Perhaps the most significant limiting factor for fully electric cars is their range—that is, the distance they can go on a single charge. Most electric cars take between six and 12 hours to charge fully, although a few can do so in less than four hours. Tesla’s Model 3 is expected to have a range of about 215 miles; the Chevy Bolt’s range is 238 mph. The longest-range option on the market today is the Concept One built by Croatian automaker Rimac, which boasts a 311 mile range and a proportionate price tag just under $1 million.
Drivers who need to cover great distances in short periods of time would be inconvenienced by a Bolt, a Model 3, or even a Concept One. A 400 mile drive would take at least two days, as the car would need to be charged overnight at least once along the way. With car charging stations still few and far between throughout the US, travelers would be forced to plan itineraries carefully.
However, range is increasing and charge time is diminishing. Volvo expects some of the all-electric cars it builds in the coming years to have ranges in excess of 300 miles, and the company is continuously pursuing advances in battery technology. This year, British manufacturer Lightning plans to begin production of its GT, which will purportedly charge itself from 0-100% in under an hour.
With Volvo having set a bold precedent for car manufacturers, many competitors are likely to follow the 90-year-old company’s lead.
Soon, drivers will begin seeing more and more electrified cars, hybrid and full, on the roads, and people will be breathing cleaner air and enjoying quieter environments.