Weekly Brief: Volvo begins drive towards full electrification

With one statement, Volvo raised the EV bar for every other carmaker in the world. Andrew Tolve reports.

Call it bold or bonkers, reckless or really good business. One way or the other, every Volvo new model launched from 2019 will be manufactured with an electric or hybrid powertrain. “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson announced in a live stream press conference last week. The new electrification strategy will help Volvo achieve its previously stated goal of selling one million electric vehicles by 2025, Samuelsson said. It also will enable Volvo to keep pace with Europe's stiffening CO2 emission regulations, which as of 2021 will require new cars to emit no more than 95 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometre, something that many combustion engines could struggle to do, or else carmakers will have to pay an excess emissions premium on each car registered.

In that light, Volvo’s announcement is less revolutionary than proactive, enabling the carmaker to market itself as trendsetting and audacious, when in fact other carmakers in Europe will have to follow a similar path. It’s also worth pointing out that existing Volvo models will continue to offer petrol and diesel powertrains while demand still exists. As for specifics, Volvo says it will introduce a portfolio of electrified cars across its model range, embracing full EVs, plug-in hybrid cars and mild hybrid cars. It will launch five full EVs between 2019 and 2021, three of which will be Volvo models and two of which will be high-performance cars from Polestar. These five cars will be supplemented by a range of petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid 48 volt options on all models.

In other news, BMW became the first carmaker to integrate a real-time on-street parking service into a connected car. The BMW 5 Series saloon will now include INRIX's new On-Street Parking service, which uses historical and up-to-the-minute parking data to predict the availability of parking spaces. According to the recent INRIX Connected & Autonomous Vehicle Consumer Survey, 72% of respondents said real-time parking availability is the navigation feature they desire the most.

Smartphone app EasyPark strengthened its offering with a predictive technology called Find & Pay. The technology works bycombining high volumes of transaction data with crowd-sourced location information from users and IoT devices to create an accurate parking probability map of every city block for any given hour of the day. Find & Pay then gives users a route to their destination that passes along streets with the highest probability of parking availability – constantly balancing time in-car against walking distance to destination to find the optimal route.

George Hotz, the renegade founder of self-driving car start-up Comma.ai, released Panda, an $88 (£68) device that lets anyone hack their own car. Panda plugs into the OBDII port and, when paired with the dash-cam app Chfr, starts unspooling reams of data about everything the car's sensors are detecting. That could range from braking and accelerating data to objects being detected by ADAS sensors. Hotz's last offering, a universal self-driving car kit, was abandoned pre-launch after NHTSA started inquiring about safety. Panda isn't likely to receive the same scrutiny but caveat emptor: reverse engineering hacks like Panda are known to fry head units even in the hands of the most skilled hackers.


Volvodrivers with the Sensus Navigation System will begin receiving over-the-air map updates thanks to an expanded partnership between Volvo and HERE. HERE is providing maps compiled in Navigation Data Standard (NDS), a format that supports incremental map updates, and Volvo is delivering them via the Volvo cloud to drivers in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and other markets.

Finally, Octo Telematics’s mobility subsidiary Omoove launched a new platform called Sharemine to help small and mid-sized vehicle fleet companies create their own car- and ride-sharing communities. Sharemine managers to track all parameters related to active users and vehicles, including drivers, riders, bookings and travel in progress. The web platform tracks rental or ride revenue as defined by the community manager. It also includes Octo Telematics insurance packages to encourage safer driving and insurance benefits for good driving behaviour.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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