Video: Compact thinking

Volvo's new compact vehicle architecture will help the firm expand its line-up, bring greater levels of electrification and, possibly, autonomous driving

Volvo, through its Geely owner, has invested heavily in new technologies to help it meet a myriad of targets and demands from the market. Its SPA architecture that underpins the firm’s larger vehicles, including the XC90 SUV, has allowed the firm to use a modular approach to vehicle development giving it the freedom to introduce different powertrain options, including electrification.

The platform has also been used to underpin Volvo’s D-segment S90 sedan and V90 estate.

But the firm still needs to compete in smaller vehicle segments that remain important not just to the European market, but also further afield too, and in achieving its medium term ambition to produce 800,000 vehicles a year. In 2015, production numbers hit 503,000.

To reach its target, Volvo has developed its compact modular architecture (CMA), helping it to bring its new compact vehicles to market. And as with the larger SPA, the architecture will allow Volvo to integrate both traditional combustion engines and also electrified powertrains. Up until this point Volvo has used a Ford-derived platform to underpin its smaller vehicles, including the compact V40. 

Volvo has developed two concept vehicles, the 40.1 and 40.1, to demonstrate how it plans to expand its line-up using the CMA.

“Each member of our product family has its own distinct character, just like the members of a real family. CMA has helped us to capture something special, something youthful in our new concept cars. They have an energy, a disruptive and engaging urban character that makes them stand out amongst the crowd. This is the flavour of small Volvos to come,” says Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s senior vice-president of design.

Volvo’s new compact car range will include a pure battery electric vehicle as well as plug-in hybrid powertrain variants which benefit from a downsized three-cylinder combustion engine technology and a dual-clutch transmission, helping it meet its target of electrifying its entire portfolio. Volvo plans to have sold a total of up to 1 million electrified cars by 2025 globally – which some could argue is a huge challenge.

“By taking a modular approach to both vehicle architecture and powertrain development we have succeeded in leapfrogging many of the players in the premium segment. Our new battery electric powertrain variant opens yet another exciting chapter in the unfolding Volvo story,” says Dr Peter Mertens, vice-president of research and development.

But as well as a carrier for electrified powertrains, the new architecture will also have to integrate Volvo’s autonomous vehicle technologies, as the OEM moves closer to giving its vehicles more control.

The firm will trial autonomous systems in 100 XC90 SUVs in Gothenburg, and is looking to run similar schemes in the UK and China too. And if Volvo wants to expand the technologies into the volume market, they will eventually need to be scaled into the compact segment.

But that will be much further down the line. The first step will be developing its 40.1 and 40.2 vehicles into production ready models.

tags: Volvo Downsizing Powertrain