Volvo’s slow treadmill to a pure electric pathway is seemingly selecting 1-first gear after being stuck in neutral for some time. When the company announced that it would be electrifying its range of vehicles, we thought it would mean an instant switch to battery-powered cars. But like dinosaurs evolving into birds, Volvo is determined to evolve in an equally slow-slow-fast-slow evolutionary manner. Legacy car manufacturers have spent the last 100 years perfecting the piston-powered engine. Turns out they were never perfect. And if we’re being honest Volvo’s combustion engines are the least efficient and least refined in the industry.
Anyway, enough of the word filling. It takes time to go from combustion engine addicts to pure electric powertrain raves. To that end, Volvo is like a recovering drug addict. And it is seeking help in the form of Northvolt, a Swedish battery developer and manufacturer. Volvo and Northvolt have formed a joint venture to set up an R&D center to develop pathway battery technology and a gigafactory.
The end-goal is mass manufacture battery cells, about 50 gigwatt hours worth of energy density annually. What are 50 gigawatts of energy equivalent to? In theory, Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine required 1.2GW of energy to go back in time. Or to put it another way, 1.0GW of energy is equivalent to 110 Million LED light bulbs, or 1.3 million horses or 2,000 Corvette Z06s.
Volvo’s joint venture will start manufacturing battery cells in 2026, will employ around 3,000 people and will be powered by renewable energy. By 2030 Volvo will have established its first gigafactory by which time it will transform into selling nothing other than electric vehicles.