Volvo said the frontal structure of the battery-powered version its XC40 has been completely redesigned and reinforced because the new version of compact SUV no longer will have an engine.
The changes include putting the car's lithium ion battery in a safety cage that consists of a frame of extruded aluminum. In addition, the battery has been embedded in the middle of the car’s body structure, creating a built-in crumple zone around it.
The XC40’s electric powertrain has also been integrated in the rear portion of the car’s body structure to better distribute collision forces away from the cabin and reduce the strain on people inside the car if there is an accident.
“The full-electric XC40 will be one of the safest cars we have ever built,” Volvo head of safety Malin Ekholm said in a release.
The car will debut on Oct. 16.
Last year the fuel-driven version XC40 received EuroNCAP's top safety rating of five stars, and it was named European Car of the Year, a first for Volvo in its 92-year history.
The full-electric XC40 will also be first Volvo equipped with a new advanced driver assistance system that consists of an array of radars, cameras and ultrasonic sensors. The system is scalable, making it possible to steadily enhance the car’s ability to drive itself, the company said while declining to say what level of autonomy the EV will offer.
The current XC40, which is based on the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), offers Level 2 capability -- so-called semi-autonomous driver assistance systems that can steer and brake the SUV as long the driver remains in full control.
The automaker has said it will eventually offer Level 4 autonomy on its second-generation Scalable Product Architecture (SPA 2), which will debut with the launch of the third-generation XC90 flagship due in 2021.
Volvo will not offer Level 3 autonomy, which the Swedish automaker considers unsafe because the driver must be prepared to take over within a matter of seconds during an emergency.
The automotive industry is on track to spend $20 billion to $30 billion (18 billion to 27 billion euros) on autonomous driving technology between 2017 and 2022, analysts estimate.
While the XC40 leads Volvo's entry into the battery-driven era, it is actually the second full-electric vehicle from the Volvo Car Group. The first was the Polestar 2, which the group’s electrified performance brand debuted in February and revealed to the public a month later at the Geneva auto show.
Both full-electric vehicles will be on the road by 2020.
In addition, both models use the CMA underpinnings that Volvo developed with Chinese sister brand Geely. CMA also underpins the 01, 02 and 03 from Lynk & CO.