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Volvo's New EV Is A True Tesla Killer
Watch out Elon.
EVs are an integral part of our transition to net-zero. But, for them to truly dominate the market, we need affordable EVs that charge fast, have long ranges and are attractive to buyers. Elon Musk’s Tesla has been spearheading this affordability push for well over a decade, and to many, they seem lightyears ahead of anyone else. However, Volvo just announced a cheaper, better-looking, faster EV that has a longer range and charges just as fast as Tesla’s best offering. So, have the Sweeds leapfrogged Musk? Or, is something else happening here?
Volvo has plans to become one of the most sustainable auto-makers in the world. By 2030, they intend to scrap internal combustion from their global line-up and instead only offer EVs. What’s more, through the use of sustainable materials, battery passports, renewable energy and legitimate carbon removal, they aim to become entirely carbon-neutral by 2040. That is ten years sooner than the Paris Agreement mandates a carbon-neutral society.
In comparison, Tesla has no plans to reach carbon neutrality, they aren’t correctly monitoring or compensating for sourcing emissions (from mines and material processing etc.), and their material selections are far from sustainable.
But, for Volvo to meet these targets, they need to up their EV game! While their cars like the XC40 Recharge, C40 Recharge, EX90, and Polestar 2 (though this one technically isn’t a Volvo) are all great in their own right, they don’t further the EV movement. They are either too expensive, too limited in range, or held back by long charge times, or all three. Not only does this mean they are missing out on the mass-market appeal that made Volvo a household brand in the 80s and 90s, but it means that they have been playing second fiddle to Tesla, Hyundai, Kia and even VW.
What Volvo needs is a proper EV for the people! Enter the EX30.
This new model was announced just a week ago and is slated to be launched in Q1 of 2024. It’s a small SUV, though it has a sizeable cargo capacity of 318 litres. This is measured to the parcel shelf, so if you ram-packed it full to the roof, it would be more like 450–500 litres. In comparison, Tesla’s Model Y’s cargo space is measured to the roof, as it lacks a parcel shelf, hence why its specs list such a massive cargo capacity for such a small car.
The EX30 will come in three different trim levels, single motor, single motor extended range, and all-wheel drive performance. Each trim of the EX30 is substantially cheaper than the basic Model Y or Model 3, so let’s see how their specs match up.
As you can see, they trounce the Teslas! They’re way cheaper, significantly faster, charge just as quickly, and, in the case of the EX30 SM ER and Model Y Std, go further per charge! But how on Earth has Volvo undercut Tesla like this?
Well, Tesla is currently undergoing a massive expansion, building new factories from scratch and developing more models. This costs billions of dollars, which is paid for from the profit of their EVs. Meanwhile, Volvo already has well-established factories and massively profitable combustion vehicles still for sale. This means Volvo can take less profit from each EV and still be able to pay for EV development and scaling.
Volvo has also taken a leaf out of Tesla’s book and massively simplified the car's design to reduce the number of parts, making production far cheaper. Rather than six door-mounted speakers, the EX30 has a single soundbar across the dash. This not only makes assembly cheaper but also reduces the number of components and reduces the amount of wiring needed in the car. Similarly, the window switches have been moved to the centre console to reduce the wiring harness even further, and the EX30 features a large central-mounted touch screen to do everything, even displaying your speed (just like a Tesla). But, unlike Tesla, Volvo has ensured the inside doesn’t feel sparse or cheap, giving the EX30 a quality aesthetic despite its cost-efficient design.
Volvo has also changed how they sell the car. Volvo’s new integrated ‘agency’ sales model means that the price is the price, no matter where you buy it from. This means no haggling at dealerships and no intermediary jacking up the price because of high EV demand. This means Volvo hasn’t included a margin in the initial cost to be haggled down like countless other manufacturers do.
So, is the EX30 a Tesla killer?
Well, Tesla has been known to drastically cut their prices out of the blue, so we might see a response from Tesla that puts them back on par with the EX30 once it is released. What’s more, Tesla’s project Highland and project Juniper, which aim to refresh the Model 3 and Model Y to reduce production costs even further, could enter production by 2024. So, there is a chance the EX30 might become more of a fierce rival rather than an out-and-out Tesla killer.
Having said that, I’d much rather buy the Volvo. They tend to have way higher quality control and much more coherently designed products. What’s more, I want to support a company that aims to have genuine zero impact on Earth’s environment and one that respects and appreciates its employees and customers. As a Volvo owner myself, I have to say I love my interactions with the company.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s lack of care for its customers’ data privacy, safety and overall experience is profoundly worrying, let alone the questionable actions Tesla has taken against its own employees. Then the fact that Tesla, which is pioneering some remarkable climate technology, doesn’t have a net-zero target and has a blasé approach to the environmental damage of its source materials or processes. This is why Tesla’s stock has a comparatively terrible ESG score (Environmental, Social Governance: the higher the score, the better) of only 29. For some comparison, Aston Martin, whose not exactly known for sustainability, has a score of 30! Meanwhile, Volvo, which still sells millions of combustion vehicles a year, has a rating of 23. So as Volvo phases out combustion engines, they could easily become the far more sustainable and moral of the two.
But only time will tell if the EX30 will be a success, if Volvo can take the EV fight to Tesla, and if Volvo can become the bastion of sustainability it is aiming for. However, looking at these stats, it seems like Tesla’s iron grip on the EV industry is starting to wane, and Volvo is poised to leapfrog them. Needless to say, the next few years will be damn interesting for the EV industry.
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