Volvo's first all-electric car - based on the award winning XC 40 SUV - is due to be unveiled next month. Significant design changes are expected to accomodate a battery rather than an engine.
Volvo says that the replacement of an engine with a battery has created a fresh set of challenges but that it has managed "to build one of the safest cars on the road."
The front of the XC 40 has been significantly re-designed and safety engineers had to completely redesign and reinforce the frontal structure to deal with the absence of an engine, meet high safety requirements and help keep occupants as safe as in any other Volvo, the company says.
The current XC 40. The front will be significantly changed to accommodate a battery rather than an engine.
"Regardless of what drives a car forward, be it an electric machine or combustion engine, a Volvo must be safe," says Malin Ekholm, head of safety at Volvo Cars. "The fully electric XC40 will be one of the safest cars we have ever built."
"The fundamentals around safety are the same for this car as for any other Volvo. People are inside, and the car needs to be designed to be safe for them," he says.
The battery is protected by a safety cage.
The company says that in order to help keep passengers safe and the battery intact in the event of a collision, it has developed a new and unique safety structure for passengers and battery alike in the XC40. The battery is protected by a safety cage which consists of a frame of extruded aluminum and has been embedded in the middle of the car’s body structure, creating a built-in crumple zone around the battery.
The battery’s placement in the floor of the car also has the benefit of lowering the center of gravity of the car, for better protection against roll-overs. The rear of the car has also been re-inforced to spread any collision forces in an accident situation.
Volvo is using radars, ultrasonic sensors and advanced cameras as part of its advanced safety programme for the new car. This system is expected to feature prominently in Volvo's autonomous driving cars development programme.
The new car will have a public reveal on October 16.