Volvo has reinvented its image over the past decade, transforming its cars from heavy to sleek and keeping pace with technological developments. Now he’s trying to do it one more time.
The 2024 Volvo EX90 is the Swedish automaker’s new flagship — and it’s electric. This three-row, seven-seat SUV incorporates all of Volvo’s latest infotainment and safety technologies, so its electric powertrain is an important statement of Volvo’s commitment to going all-electric in the future.
The EX90 is not an autonomous electric vehicle. Its style and technology will set the tone for future Volvos. The business case is also not specific to electric vehicles. The EX90 has the same form factor as Volvo’s popular XC90 SUV, which it surpasses in technology. Volvo isn’t trying to prove it can make an electric vehicle; it’s already done with the XC40 Recharge and the C40 Recharge. It’s just trying to make a good car.
“There are no gimmicks in the EX90.” Volvo Cars CEO Jim Rowan said in a keynote at the electric vehicle reveal in Stockholm. “All the technology that exists is there for a reason.” And boy, are there many.
Stylish and durable
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The EX90 is a conventional SUV design with the sharp edges shaved off. There isn’t even a hint of a grille, the door handles are flush with the bodywork, and the wheels have smooth inserts between the spokes. Everything is done to help minimize aerodynamic drag – an important consideration for an EV, as it helps increase range.
The result is a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.29, compared to 0.33 for the current Volvo XC90 three-row SUV (lower numbers are better). The EX90 isn’t the slippiest electric SUV around; the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV has a 0.26 Cd. But Volvo designers kept a more traditional SUV shape, in line with the gasoline-powered Volvo XC90, without resorting to the Mercedes Jell-O mold shape.
“The profile and a bit of the plan view are a bit rounder than what we may have done in the past,” T. Jon Mayer, Volvo’s exterior design manager, told Digital Trends. “It’s not a drop of jellybean by any means, but there’s some very careful detailing to the roundness that you put around the edges. This detail work, along with a longer rear overhang, helps maintain smooth airflow around the car while following the minimalist ethos of Scandinavian design, keeping the bodywork visually clean. .
The EX90 is a conventional SUV design with the sharp edges shaved off.
The interior has the same minimalist look as current Volvos, but with a greater emphasis on sustainable materials. The fillings are made from Nordico, a mix of recycled PET plastic bottles and biomaterials from Swedish and Finnish forests.
“It’s actually driven by the design department,” Henrik Green, global head of advanced technology and sustainability at Volvo, told Digital Trends, noting that designers are always looking to try new and different materials. Volvo says the EX90 contains around 15% recycled plastic, 15% recycled steel and 25% recycled aluminum – the most recycled content of any Volvo production car to date, says Green. This helps to further reduce the carbon footprint of this electric SUV.
Next level sensor technology
Sensors enable the driver assistance systems of today, and automakers promise they will lay the foundation for the self-driving cars of tomorrow. The EX90 takes a step towards this future as the first Volvo with integrated lidar. This sensor technology, which works on the same principle as radar, but uses light instead of radio waves, is already used by most self-driving car developers. Volvo believes the lidar will allow the capability of “unsupervised autonomous driving” to be added via an over-the-air (OTA) update at a later date.
But engineers and designers had to figure out where to put a lidar unit on a vehicle already stuffed with five radar sensors, eight cameras and 16 ultrasonic sensors.
The EX90 is the first Volvo with integrated lidar.
“I remember getting this and thinking, ‘oh my god, where are we going to hide this,'” Mayer said of the Luminar Iris lidar unit. Designers initially considered placing it in the grille, where other sensors are located, but engineers requested that it be mounted as high as possible to maximize the field of view. A mounting location behind the windshield was also ruled out as it would have blocked the scattering of light particles at certain angles. So the lidar sits in an aerodynamic fairing on the roof, exposing the technology and, according to Volvo, allowing the sensor to see up to 820 feet ahead.
For now, lidar and other sensors will help improve the performance of Volvo’s existing range of driver assistance features, such as the Pilot Assist motorway driving system. At least until the promised self-driving upgrade arrives, that is.
A watchful eye
The sensors don’t just look outside the vehicle. The EX90’s standard “Driver Understanding System” tracks the driver’s gaze to detect distraction, drowsiness or drunkenness. Other automakers have their own driver monitoring systems, but they usually just track where the driver is looking. Volvo says its system monitors patterns to better gauge the driver’s state of mind. It also uses two cameras (at different angles) instead of the single camera of most other systems, and is linked to the car’s driver aids, allowing the car to react on its own.
Like driver monitoring, Volvo has taken occupant detection to the next level. Many automakers offer rear seat reminders to prevent drivers from leaving children or pets unattended, but Volvo has added in-vehicle radars that can detect a sleeping baby’s breathing. They cover the entire cabin and trunk, and are linked to the air conditioning, which can be turned on automatically to reduce the risk of hypothermia or heatstroke, Volvo says.
Smarter infotainment design
A 14.5-inch touchscreen and 9.0-inch dashboard feature graphics powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. The EX90 runs an updated version of Google’s built-in infotainment system previously seen in other Volvos. It has Android Auto capabilities, such as Google Maps and Google Assistant voice control, plus a few extras, like the ability to sync with Google home devices and access the Google Play app store. Apple CarPlay is also supported, along with 5G connectivity and a digital key feature that allows drivers to use a smartphone instead of a standalone key fob.
On the digital instrument cluster, Volvo used a familiar layout, but tried to reduce distraction and confusion. For example, the slim instrument cluster only displays relevant information; you won’t get an icon for your headlights or windshield wipers unless you turn them on or off. And if you’re using navigation and switch to another menu on the main touchscreen, an icon remains at the top of the screen so you can easily return to the map.
For the main touchscreen, Volvo designers also selected a large map at the top and a fixed bar for functions such as climate control at the bottom. It’s a layout we’ve seen before, but it’s also the best at conveying information clearly, Volvo claims. The card is placed high up because testing has shown it’s better for visual processing, while the climate controls take up the bottom of the screen because it’s ergonomically advantageous, said design manager Anna Arasa. UX for the EX90, to Digital Trends, noting that touchpoints land where hands tend to rest.
Kilowatts wherever you need them
A dual-motor all-wheel-drive system delivers 408 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque in its standard configuration, and 503 horsepower and 671 pound-feet. of torque for the performance version. Volvo quotes zero-to-60mph times of 5.7 seconds and 4.7 seconds for standard and performance versions, respectively. As with all Volvos, the EX90 is electronically limited to 112 mph – another of the automaker’s safety policies.
An 111 kilowatt-hour battery provides an estimated range of 300 miles. 250 kilowatts DC fast charging allows for a 10% to 80% charge in 30 minutes, and the EX90 supports Plug and Charge, which means you can plug into a public charger and automatically start charging without entering manually a payment method (this function may however not be available at launch). Volvo expects its customers to charge from home most of the time, but did not say how long it would take to replenish the electrons with an AC home charger.
The EX90 will also be the first Volvo (though not the first EV) with bi-directional charging, allowing it to discharge energy from its battery to run electronic devices or even charge other EVs. When plugged into a home charger and home energy management system supplied by Volvo, it can also help you power your home or send electricity back to the grid, reducing stress on the power generation infrastructure. This will, however, require some coordination with utilities.
Serious about the future of EVs
Volvo says a well-equipped EX90 will be available for less than $80,000, putting the seven-seat EV in the same ballpark as the current seven-seat XC90 Recharge plug-in hybrid. Deliveries aren’t expected to begin until early 2024. Customers can pre-order now to get priority in the delivery queue, but they won’t be asked to set up their builds until roughly fall 2023. when production is expected to begin at Volvo’s Ridgeville, South Carolina, plant.
The Volvo XC90 will continue to be sold with mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains. With charging infrastructure still an unresolved issue, the XC90 will likely remain a more practical choice for many buyers. But the momentum has clearly shifted to the all-electric EX90.
Instead of another gas-powered SUV, Volvo has chosen to deploy its latest technology – from lidar to passenger surveillance radar – in an electric vehicle. Yet the EX90 still looks like a Volvo, evolving the style introduced by the XC90. Technology and design elements from the EX90 will carry over to other Volvo EVs, starting with a smaller SUV than the current one Launch of the XC40 in 2023 and until 2030, when Volvo plans to have an all-electric lineup, according to Andres Gustafsson, CEO of Volvo Car USA. Most automakers now claim to be interested in electric vehicles, but looking at the EX90, it seems like Volvo really thinks they’re the future.