Volvo’s newest SC-built car nearing debut, without a mythological moniker
The all-electric successor to Volvo’s best-selling XC90 sport-utility vehicle to be built at the automaker’s South Carolina plant will make its public debut Nov. 9, but it won’t be carrying a new type of name as once promised.
News of the next-generation SUV came as the S.C. Energy Office released a report outlining legislative and development recommendations to help the state’s EV industry grow. The study is the result of input from more than 350 groups and individuals to “identify challenges and opportunities, and develop actionable recommendations” as well as increase awareness.
Among the findings: the industry and South Carolina’s education system need to collaborate on workforce development; the state needs to develop minimum standards for charging infrastructure and design; and lawmakers should create incentives and tax credits to encourage adoption of electric vehicles.
Volvo said it hasn’t yet decided where its new EX90 will be unveiled, but CEO Jim Rowan stressed in a video this week that it will be the safest yet for an automaker known for its history of safety advancements and its long-term goal of having no deaths or serious injuries to drivers or passengers in its vehicles.
“The safety standard of our next car will be beyond any Volvo car before,” Rowan said of the EX90, which will be a roomier and more aerodynamic version of its predecessor. A large battery will sit beneath a flat floor to provide more interior space in a design that’s both longer and lower than a typical SUV.
“All Volvo EX90s will come with an invisible shield of safety — a unique combination of the latest technology powered by an understanding of the car’s outside environment and the state of the driver inside,” Rowan said.
What it won’t come with is a nameplate sporting a different kind of moniker than Volvo’s typical number-letter combinations.
Former CEO Hakan Samuelsson said 2021 that the XC90 successor would usher in a new naming era for Volvo, promising to give all new models “a name as you give a newborn child.”
The name Embla — the earth’s first female, according to Norse mythology — was floated, but in the end Volvo chose to stick with its tried-and-true identification system for the EX90.
The battery-powered SUV will join the S60 sedan on the production line at the Volvo Cars campus off Interstate 26 near Ridgeville in Berkeley County. Rowan said the EX90 will have “state-of-the-art sensors and software” that can detect dangers on the road and inside the vehicle, such as when a driver “is tired, distracted or otherwise needs a break.” If a driver falls ill or asleep, “the car is designed to stop safely and call for help,” he said.
Volvo also is building the all-electric Polestar 3 sedan for its high-performance sister brand.
The EX90 will be in showrooms in 2023.
Its debut comes at a time when the gas-powered XC90 is still one of the automaker’s top-selling vehicles. Through August, Volvo has sold 23,008 XC90s to U.S. customers — just a dozen vehicles shy of the best-selling mid-sized XC60. Volvo has said it won’t immediately phase out the XC90 when the EX90 arrives, so both vehicles are expected to be available for some time.
Volvo is among the groups working with the state Energy Office to promote the EV industry, which includes vehicle manufacturers BMW in the Upstate, Mercedes-Benz Vans in North Charleston, bus makers Arrival in York County and Proterra in Greenville, and charging manufacturer ABB E-Mobility in Columbia.
The new report shows South Carolina is ranked No. 4 in the Southeast for electric-vehicle employment, with 785 jobs, and No. 5 in terms of manufacturing investment, at $800.6 billion, as of 2021. EV sales also ranked No. 5, with a market share of 1.9 percent of all South Carolina vehicles sold. The state also has nearly 1,000 charging ports at public and private locations statewide, mostly along the coast and in the major metro areas.
“The purpose of the EV Stakeholder Initiative was to facilitate a collaborative statewide discussion to explore opportunities to advance electric-vehicle deployment in South Carolina, with the goal of developing a list of policy and programmatic recommendations to further EV deployment,” the report states.
Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions spearheaded the study.