Volvo's New Electric Car Could Take Down the Tesla Model 3

The Model 3 only achieves a range of 215 miles, 35 less than the proposed Volvo vehicle.


Volvo has something big in the works: an all-electric vehicle with a price between $35,000 and $40,000, capable of driving a minimum of 250 miles on a single charge, and released sometime in 2019. That could make it a competitor to the Tesla Model 3, the company’s upcoming car set to enter production this summer.

“That’s what I put in as the prerequisite for the United States,” Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Car USA, told reporters at the Geneva Auto Show on Monday. “If I want to make a point in the United States, if I want to make volumes, that’s what I believe I need.”

Those specifications would make the new Volvo a strong competitor to the Tesla Model 3. The Model 3 is Elon Musk’s first mass-market electric vehicle, and it’s sacrificed some of the range of the Model S or X to make a $35,000 price tag. The Model 3 only achieves a range of 215 miles, 35 less than the proposed Volvo vehicle, and Kerssemakers said that might be all the difference — because range anxiety is the only thing standing in the way of prospective EV owners.

Tesla knows this all too well. It’s spent the past few years developing an international network of superchargers, which the company claims are the only chargers capable of powering up its electric cars with 120 kilowatts. Half an hour’s charge provides 170 miles of range, compared to the 11 miles of range a consumer can expect from an 11-kilowatt home charger.

“Why are people reluctant to buy a full electric car?” Kerssemakers said. “It’s between the ears. It’s that they believe there’s not sufficient range.”

A Tesla supercharger in action.

Flickr / jecoopr

Volvo’s higher range could help convince consumers not to worry so much about making it to their destination, but Tesla may hold the advantage on the charge up time. There are 795 supercharger stations across the world hosting 5,085 charging points. If consumers can top up the Model 3’s battery in record time, will they care about the Volvo’s increased range?

Tesla is expected to deliver Model 3 vehicles ordered now by mid-2018, meaning the vehicle could end up in some customers’ hands not too far from the time of the Volvo vehicle’s debut.

The Volvo vehicle’s actual form is currently unknown, but the company is expected to decide in the next few months whether to work from an existing design or create something different. The company believes its Scalable Product Architecture, a modular chassis system currently used in the Volvo XC90, could be a good platform to allow it to meet this ambitious timetable.

Update 3/15: A previous version of this story claimed that Model 3 deliveries would start mid-2018. The article has now been updated to clarify that this refers to orders placed now.

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