Hi there, Johan Konnberg!
Johan Konnberg is the family’s coach and he will help them get under way with their electric car, a Volvo C30 Electric. He is responsible for the development of hybrid and electric cars at Volvo and he believes there will be a noticeable difference in the cars we see on the roads within the next five years, with a lot of electric cars in regular traffic.
Does it feel like the family got off to a good start with the car?
“Definitely. They’ve had a great kick-off, they’re really keen. After I showed them the car it only took a couple of hours before Alicja was out driving and later blogging about it!”
Have you always been interested in electric cars?
“I’ve worked with everything from strategy and product planning to engineering at Volvo, for almost 30 years now. For the past three years I’ve been responsible for the development of hybrids and electric cars. I applied for that department and I work primarily with business models. Purely emotively, hybrids and electric cars are definitely going to see a major upswing and I think that’s just great.”
When did development of the C30 Electric get under way?
“It began in 2009 – and we started from the ground up. There have been a variety of concept cars that Volvo has developed in previous years, running to a greater or lesser extent on electricity. We chose to tailor an already existing platform to an electric driveline and decided on the C30 since it is a typical commuter’s car. It is also our smallest and lightest model.”
What sort of performance does it offer?
“We have an electric motor that produces 110 horsepower mated to a reduction gear that reduces the 15,000-20,000 revs of the electric motor by a factor of ten so that the road wheels spin at a more suitable speed. There is also a large battery pack totalling 24 kWh installed in a “T”-shaped unit low down in the car, in the propshaft tunnel and where the fuel tank would normally be fitted. This gives a low centre of gravity, which is good for driveability and means that the batteries are well within the safety zone, protected from damage in the event of a collision. During our development work, it was important for us not to compromise on other important aspects such as safety, space, driveability and comfort. For the sake of comfort the car has a heater powered by ethanol, because it is otherwise difficult to produce heat in an electric car’s passenger compartment – an electric motor has a 90 percent efficiency rating so it does not produce much surplus heat for the passengers. If we took heat via the batteries, that would compromise the car’s operating range.”
How fast is the car?
“Top speed has been limited to 130 km/h. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h has been fixed at 10.5 seconds. When the batteries are fully charged, the electrons are fast, when the batteries are almost drained they are slow. If we didn’t fix the car’s acceleration at a specific rate, the result would be that the car would accelerate differently depending on battery charge status, and this would make progress unpredictable.”
How far can the car drive?
“The C30 has a theoretical range of 150 kilometres. But that’s in the laboratory. In practical on-road driving a more realistic figure is 100 to 120 km. The ultimate range depends on how you drive and a whole lot of other parameters, for instance whether the audio system and seat heaters are on, since they compete with the drive motor for battery power. Outside temperature also has an impact.”
How is the Volvo C30 Electric in competition with other electric cars?
“We believe it shapes up very well in competition with other electric cars. Everyone who has driven it exclaims “But this is a real car!” And that’s exactly what it is – you should feel at home with it, it shouldn’t feel different in any way, not as regards the way you drive and the feedback it gives you while driving. You shouldn’t have to compromise on anything. Add all this together and you’ve got a winner.”
When will we see this model in the showrooms?
“We’ll start to deliver cars for leasing after the 2011 summer vacation period. By the start of 2012, 250 cars will be on the roads in a number of locations in Sweden, and here we will be able to offer unique workshop servicing expertise to look after these cars. We’re talking about Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö, Helsingborg, Östersund, Umeå and Skellefteå. We are focusing primarily on companies, institutions and politicians who are interested in leasing a car for 3 years. After that we want the cars back here for evaluation. Among other things, we want to find out what happens with the batteries after three years. The cars will also become available on certain markets in Europe, and they will be demonstrated in the USA and Asia.”
What does the future look like for electric cars?
“I believe they’re here to stay. Battery technology is now so far advanced that it is possible to cover 120 to 150 kilometres in an electric car.”
When will electric cars become a common sight on Swedish roads?
“That depends a whole lot on the government, if they feel this is a good idea and provide subsidies for the electric car just like they did with the state green-car subsidy. On some European markets, buyers get a grant of 40,000 to 60,000 kronor for electric cars, and this makes them viable since they have such low operating costs. Within a 5-year period, you’re going to notice the presence of electric cars on the roads.”
How much progress have other countries made?
“Different countries have made different degrees of progress. President Obama wants to make the USA independent of imported oil so there is massive dollar investment in this technology in America. The USA has therefore come a good way in this respect. France relies totally on nuclear power for its electricity and wants to push its car industry in the direction of electric cars. Nothing is happening on other markets.