The XC40 is a great subcompact SUV, but is the Recharge a great EV?

We had the opportunity to drive the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge around northern New Jersey for a couple of hours to report our impressions of Volvo's first all-electric vehicle. 

The Volvo XC40 Recharge (or, if you want its full name it's Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8) is the electric version of Volvo's very popular subcompact SUV. 

The XC40 Recharge is all-wheel drive and powered by two 201 horsepower electric motors giving a total system output of 402 horsepower and 486 lb-ft of torque. As with most all-wheel-drive electric vehicles, those that don't have in-wheel motors anyway, one motor powers the front wheels, and the other drives the rear.

The XC40 Recharge is powered by a 78 kWh battery pack, of which 75 kWh is usable. Its EPA-rated range is 208 miles, but that's when charged to 100%, which Volvo recommends against doing. Because the vehicle uses so much of its total capacity (96%), like Tesla, Volvo recommends daily charging to 90%. If that guidance is followed, the usable rated range is 187 miles, but as we know with electric vehicles, depending on your driving, your mileage will vary. 

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge

The XC40 Recharge is capable of recharging at a peak rate of 150 kW while charging on a high-powered DC fast charger and Volvo claims a 0% to 80% recharge time of 40 minutes. We attempted to test out the charging at an Electrify America charging station but were unsuccessful, as the charger and the vehicle had a communication issue. So we reached out to Electrify America and Volvo for comment and received the following:

Russell Datz Volvo's National Media Relations Manager: "I spoke to a few people and can confirm there is a recognized software compatibility issue with a small number of chargers on the EA network. We are scheduled to have a fix early in the year, ahead of any significant customer deliveries." 

 

Mike Moran, Communications Manager for Electrify America: “Electrify America has not had access to the Volvo XC40 Recharge for testing in our Center of Technology Lab. We are currently engaging with Volvo to conduct a test of the vehicle and will comment after the testing and evaluation are complete.”

Once the issues have been resolved, we'll ask Volvo for a vehicle loan so we can conduct proper DC Fast-charge testing. 

The spec sheet for the XC40 Recharge states that it can charge at up to 11 kW from a level 2 source. However, while navigating through the charge settings, the maximum charge rate could be set to was 32-amps, which would indicate a 7.7 kW maximum charge rate. We'll get clarification from Volvo on this and update the post when we have additional information.

Gallery: 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge Media Drive

On the road, the Volvo XC40 recharge was a pleasure to drive. The 402-hp powertrain launches the vehicle faster than you'd expect - it's borderline too fast and can rocket from a standstill to 60 mph in about four and a half seconds. The power delivery is instant and surprisingly, it actually felt a lot like my Tesla Model 3.

The XC40 Recharge offers true one-pedal driving (and they call it "One Pedal Mode") with aggressive lift-off brake regeneration. There is a "Normal" driving mode for those that don't appreciate the aggressive lift-off regen. The driver does have the option of turning off One Pedal Drive in the settings by selecting "Driving", then "activate" or "deactivate" One Pedal Drive. The vehicle also has blended brakes so in either mode you add more energy recuperation when depressing the friction brake pedal.

The XC40 Recharge uses Volvo's Compact Modular Architecture or CMA, which the Polestar 2 and a number of other vehicles from Lynk & Co as well as Geely use. It was engineered to accommodate every type of powertrain, from pure ICE, to PHEV, to full electric. As such, there was no intrusion from the batteries into the passenger or cargo area.

However using a non-dedicated architecture has its disadvantages, and the XC40 Recharge weighs 4,823 pounds; 456 pounds heavier than a Tesla Model Y, which is a larger vehicle with roughly the same size battery pack and 50% more driving range.  

The XC40 Recharge has a starting price of $54,985, which nets out at $47,485 once the federal tax credit is applied, as long as the owner qualifies for the credit. Even with the tax credit factored in the XC 40 recharge is still costs more than $5,000 more than the most expensive trim of the ICE XC40, the T5 Inscription.

An argument could be made that the added performance of the XC40 Recharge alone is worth the extra money, but we believe the large pricing gap between the ICE XC40 models and the Recharge is going to be a problem for Volvo unless they really incentivize the lease deals. 

DOE efficiency ratings 2021 SUVs
Compared to some similar BEV competitors, the XC40 Recharge shows its lack of efficiency. The much larger and heavier Audi e-tron needs the same amount of energy to drive 100 miles.

Another problem we foresee is the range. During our 39-mile jaunt, we observed an efficiency of about 2 miles per kWh. Startled by the lack of efficiency, we looked up the XC40 Recharge's official efficiency numbers and found we weren't too far off of the Department of Energy's figures. The Recharge is rated to need 43 kWh to drive 100 miles, which translates to 2.32 mi/kWh. (26.72 kWh/100 km)

At the end of our drive, the XC40 Recharge's display showed we averaged a consumption of 50.7 kWh per 100 miles. That's worse than the official rating, but we were driving in cold weather, and road testing a vehicle isn't the most efficient form of driving. Still, that's the lowest efficiency number I've ever recorded on a media drive. Well, excluding the time I drove 167 mph in a Porsche Taycan Turbo S on the Autobahn in Germany.

XC40 Recharge Efficiency

Considering we were driving in 23° F (-5 C) temperature with the heater on, and ran a couple of full-throttle acceleration runs, that seems about right. Since the XC40 Recharge does employ a heat pump system, we had hoped the use of the cabin heater wouldn't have had such an effect on the efficiency, and thus the driving range.

With that kind of (in)efficiency, XC40 Recharge owners may only see about 150 miles of driving range in the winter - and that's if they ignore Volvo's recommendation and charge the vehicle to 100%. Considering most folks aren't too comfortable driving an EV when the state of charge drops below 10%, the practical range may be even less. We think that's a problem for Volvo. 

Personally, I love how the XC40 Recharges looks and drives, but the high price and low range is going to severely limit sales, in my opinion. I came to this media drive so wanting to love this electric vehicle but left wondering if the gas version is a better option - and that's an opinion I almost never have. 

Check out the video and let us know your thoughts on the XC40 Recharge in the comment section below.