Voltaic Roadtrip with the Volvo XC40 Recharge.
Now everyone on the internet has been talking about how Volvo's latest electric SUV, the XC40 Recharge is the most powerful Volvo ever to be sold in India, how great it is on driving dynamics and how it is one of the most desirable electric family SUVs that's staged to be sold in India in a matter of a few days.
What I was more intrigued to know is, if I can go and see the sunrise in the Himalayas, work from there for a while, have a spot of lunch and come back at a price I would pay for dinner for a family of 4 at McDonald's and all of it within a single day. The XC40 had about 50 kWh of charge left in the battery and the remaining 28 kWh of this 78 kWh unit required a refill.
I plugged it into the 25 kWh wall box unit in my Apartment compound, which took about 1.5 hours to 100%. And since I get subsidised electricity to charge my electric vehicle, thanks to a 2.5 kWh Solar Panel on the roof of my house, I end up paying ₹ 3.24 per kWh of charge which makes it about ₹ 90 to top it up. Even if my battery was fully drained, it wouldn't have cost me more than ₹ 300 to fully charge it and do the claimed range of 418 km (As per the WLTP cycle). That takes my running cost to ₹ 0.70 per km. Insane right?
The best part about living in a city like Delhi is the push to maximise Electrification of transportation and subsidies from the Government that support the entire boom of Electric Vehicles and EV Infrastructure. There is a subsidy from anywhere between 25 to 30% off one's electricity unit charge if you choose to install a wall box with a registered meter for charging personal EVs only. After putting my car on charge at 8 pm, I hit the bed, just to wake up at 3.30 am and scoot out of the city, taking advantage of minimal traffic and cooler road surface temperature.
Now we do understand the warmer the batteries are, the better it is for each cell's thermodynamic efficiency. But considering we were running on 235 / 50 R19 Pirelli Medium Soft compound PZERO tyres on this particular car, the warmer road surface temperature would mean higher rolling resistance which could slow us down, although marginally, but would hamper the highway efficiency considerably. After 65 km and about an hour of driving out of the city, I finally reached Gulshan Dhaba for a spot of early morning breakfast. That distance drained 14 % of the charge and there was still about 295 km to go.
After about 5 hours of being on the road (including half an hour for breakfast) cocooned in the luxury of the beautiful crafter Alcantara and Leather seats that I love, at an average speed of 70 kmph we reached the town of Panchkula near Chandigarh, covering a distance of 245 km and 48% of charge left. Now, all this while I did not use the braking regeneration mode or as Volvo likes to call it, the single pedal drive mode which makes the regenerative braking very aggressive. Considering my breakfast had no plans to come out of my mouth and cause damage to the senses I considered keeping the system off. Now 245 km of driving with just 52% charge consumed translates to about 470 km of the total range which is 12.4% more than what the WLTP cycle claims under testing. The highway from Delhi till Chandigarh has many fly-overs, the wavy format of the road helped me reduce the throttle input by at least 15%. I would lift off from the throttle and would let the car roll down the descent with its momentum created by the 400kg extra weight over the petrol-powered XC40, resulting in marginal saving of charge in the batteries.
Next up was a 60 km steep ascent to the outskirts of Solan in Himachal Pradesh where I was headed for my meeting via the recently completed and glorious Himalayan Expressway that connects Chandigarh to Shimla. Lugging the 2150 kg kerb weight the dual-motor setup honestly did not have a lot of work to do. Combined, they produce 408 bhp of max power and 660 Nm of max torque from the standstill, since it is a fully electric car. Further, the power to weight ratio is 189 bhp per tonne and torque to weight ratio of 306 Nm per tonne which is 1 bhp per tonne lower and a whopping 73 Nm per tonne higher respectively than the Mercedes Benz GLE 53 AMG. From Panchkula to Solan, the XC40 recharge was extracting an average of 37kWh per 100 km which is more than double what it was consuming on the straight highways we just drove through.
We reached Solan in the state of Himachal Pradesh at about 10 am for the meeting with a 32% charge left. Himachal Pradesh does have a brilliant Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure. With the conversion of all major intra-town / state public transport to electric, the charging infrastructure has been substantial in the state with multiple private and public sector EV companies setting up units around the state. Around noon, I set aboard and head down to Kasauli Hills for a spot of lunch and a charge up. A downhill distance of 28 km, where most of the time the XC40 was regen charging or coasting, consuming 2% of its stored electricity to run the electronics.
We reached the Savoy Greens, Jabli in Kasauli Hills where Statiq India, an EV charging company has installed their 50kWh superchargers. The unit comprises 3 types of chargers namely ChaDeMo, CCS-2 and DC fast charger with reserved parking bays for EVs only. With facilities like a proper food court, a 3-star hotel and a cable car ride to the top of the hill you can be entertained while your EV gets fully charged. The Volvo XC40 Recharge has a charging input capacity of 150 kWh, which is pretty much future-ready as the charging infrastructure improves every year.
I had a few emails to write and a press conference to attend online while having my lunch, overlooking the vintage houses on the hills and much cooler weather. It took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to fully charge the XC40 Recharge from 30%, the last 20% taking about 40 minutes itself since the charging slows down as it fully charges.
For issues about sustainable motoring in the mountains as we got higher up, the electrification of transportation and its infrastructure is growing rapidly. Himachal Pradesh Government has been swift in developing and supporting initiatives to bring down the overall carbon footprint in the state, which will ultimately help reduce flash floods, untimely landslides and other natural disasters which bring life to a complete halt in the state besides harming the ecology of the mountains.
A charge of 54 kWh at the Statiq India charging station cost me ₹ 770, which is roughly around ₹ 14.26 / kWh. A steep price you pay to get your electric car charged quickly. I left Savoy Greens after attracting the attention of many hotel guests and passersby a downhill distance of 32 km where I surprisingly used just 1% of the charge in the battery as the descent was steep and the momentum created by the heavy mass of the car meant I was braking for prolonged durations at every corner which was regenerating electricity in the batteries. Once I hit Panchkula, the evening traffic situation got messy, and I had to creep between slow-moving trucks and busses.
But as much as I would have been anxious about blowing up my fuel bills guzzling petrol being static in the traffic, I was substantially less affected in the electric car. After 25 minutes of bothersome bumper to bumper traffic, I finally opened up the horses, errr.. Electric Ponies of the XC40 Recharge, where I did end up consuming anywhere between 300 to 350 Wh for every kilometre I was blasting this little ship. After Consuming over 10% of the battery within 17 km of being a total lunatic at triple-digit speeds, the Gods of Range Anxiety gave me a little look and I relaxed the muscles of my right foot. A calm cruise at 80 kmph on the National Highway 1 gave us an average of 160 Wh / km which is pretty amazing considering two motors are powering the wheels.
Upon entering Delhi I had already covered 257 km since charging the XC40 fully and I still had 40% juice left. I was astonished by the range output it has considering we went through a short downhill section, got stuck in multiple traffic spots and went full rabbit mode 5 - 6 times. With the numbers above, the XC40 Recharge was pushing an overall realistic range of 428 km which is 10 km more than what Volvo claims on paper. A road trip of about 650 kms done within 18 hours.
How much did I end up paying? The expenses I did on this roadtrip are as follows. - Home Charging (28 kWh) : ₹ 90 - Fast Charging in Kasauli (54 kWh) : ₹ 770 - Masala Dosa at the Gulshan Dhaba : ₹ 155
- McVeggie Meal at McDonald's : ₹ 165
- Tolls : ₹ 340 Total : ₹ 1,520 (inclusive of taxes) McDonald's Vegetarian Maharaja Mac Extra Value Meal for 4 with desserts costs ₹ 1,710 (inclusive of taxes)
Voila! A trip to the hills with all the expenses being ₹ 190 cheaper than a family meal and I still had about 34% charge left in the batteries once I reached home.
Volvo cars are close to my heart. They are the epitome of sophisticated luxury without being too loud out in the wild. The XC40 Recharge is the first fully electric offering from the brand and it is an absolute event. The way it makes you feel when you're out on the road, going to your workplace or doing long-distance road trips is amazing. The seats are extremely comfortable, the noise insulation is top grade and the Harman Kardon Hi-Fi makes sure your favourite tunes keep you far away from range anxiety if any may come. The One Pedal Drive mode is an outstanding feature to use in the city once you get the hang of it, there is hardly any role of physical brakes left, making reaction times while driving quickly incredibly precise and also elongating the timelines to change the brake pads on general service intervals.
The price announcement is still some time away and considering Volvo has been very aggressive at placing their products against the competition. I am expecting it to be anywhere between ₹ 65 to 70 lac (ex-showroom) which will create a massive demand for this EV. It is quicker than most sports saloons and SUVs, more economical to run than a TATA Nano and as quiet as a Rolls Royce without the embellishments.
This is the best electric car to be on sale in India right now. Period.
I am in a little dismay though, that this Red shade won't make it to the Indian spec of the XC40 Recharge, otherwise, this looks like Santa Claus's sledge with the Green number plate. Christmas come already!