Testing Driving the Volvo C30 DRIVe
By Noel Adams
Just about every car company world wide are working on vehicles that us electric drive. Volvo's entry into the EV space is the C30 DRIVe. The C30 DRIVe is a three door sedan that will seat 4 people comfortably. It is an electric version of the C30, the smallest car in Volvo's lineup.
The car is powered by a 24 KWH battery pack from Enerdel. Lennart Stegland, who would accompany me on my test drive, told me that Volvo had engineered the battery so it would be away from the crumple zones, protected as much as possible in case of a crash. To accomplish this, the pack is placed in a T configuration along what would normally be the transmission tunnel and across the car under the rear seat.
Range for the C30 DRIVe is officially 100 miles but Volvo are saying 80 miles which is a lot more likely in real world driving. The car is capable of a top speed of 81 mph and can do 0-60 in around 10.5 seconds. I got an opportunity to drive this car at the LA Auto Show.
The front seats are comfortable although, being short, I felt like I was sitting way too deep. Access to the rear seats is quite difficult but once back there the seating is comfortable, with adequate leg room.
The car starts with a conventional key, although the placement on the dash rather than the steering column confused me for a moment. A quick turn of the key and the car boots up. Since there is no engine to start you have to watch the instrument panel - no issue for a Prius driver like me.
The instrument panel is simple and easy to see. There is a speedometer of course and a battery state of charge indicator that showed state of charge was pretty low but still more than adequate for this short test drive. They were charging the car for about five minutes between test drives but that wouldn't provide much additional range as the onboard charger is only 3.3 KW.
Also in the instrument cluster is a meter that tells you where your power is going. At rest the needle points straight up. The harder you accelerate the more power you are pulling from the batteries, the more the needle moves clockwise. The stronger you use regenerative braking, the more power you are putting back into the batteries, the more needle swings counter clockwise. Sitting at the bottom of this dial is a smaller dial that shows how efficiently you are driving. The object here is to try and keep the needle in the green section of the dial.
Keeping my foot on the brake I shifted the car into drive by clicking back on a small lever that returns to center once you release it. Then I released the emergency brake with the flip of a similar lever. The emergency brake on the C30 DRIVe is electric. The car moved noiselessly at low speed as I made my way out of the LA Convention Center parking lot onto the streets of downtown LA.
Once out on the street the car drives pretty much the same way as any small car. Steering is light and responsive and the car is easy to maneuver at low speed.
When I punched the accelerator the car took off quite smartly. The acceleration isn’t neck snapping but it is more than adequate for merging into heavy traffic like that encountered in LA. Lennart told me that acceleration is faster than the standard C30 at low speeds and pretty much the same at highway speeds.
Once we got onto a straight level stretch of road Lennart showed me that clicking the selector back into the drive position again turns off regenerative braking allowing the car to coast. After a couple of hundred yards my speed had only dropped about 2 mph and a quick blip on the accelerator brought the car back up to match the speed of other traffic on the street. Many electric car drivers think that coasting is more efficient than regenerative braking so the ability to coast should help hypermilers get more range from the battery pack.
Back at the convention center I had to weave in and out around columns to get back to the ride and drive parking. The car’s power steering handled this really well making the slalom like route a piece of cake.
The C40 is a nice fun to drive EV for those who want a commuter vehicle and only needs to carry passengers in the rear occasionally. It will also appeal to those looking for Volvo's legendary attention to safety.
Volvo plans to start production in the second quarter of 2011 but will only build 1,000 units. Most of these will be deployed in evaluation programs first in Sweden then in Belgium. The USA is another possible target marked for a small test fleet.
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