Volvo was kind enough to loan me the new XC40 Recharge for a week. So I took it on a road trip to the northern part of Michigan. About 500 miles round-trip. That might not sound like a lot, but the XC40 Recharge is rated as having a range of around 208 miles. Which means I’d need to charge it at least once – most likely twice, or three times – on this trip. So it was a good way to see how the Volvo XC40 Recharge works as a road trip car. And to see if you can really do a road trip with an electric vehicle.
Keep in mind that, once you get outside of metro Detroit, Michigan is very rural. And that was quickly realized when planning this trip with Plugshare. Which, if you do own an EV, and don’t use Plugshare, you’re doing it wrong. Essentially it’s a website that shows you chargers around you, and on your route. And allows you to map out your charging stops as well.
This is also an important tool, because it can show you where the fast chargers are. And that’s another important thing to check out when driving long distances in an electric vehicle. What’s nice about this, is that you can add a charging stop to your route, and it will show you the distance between stops. So you’ll know if your vehicle can make it. Additionally, you can then send it to Google Maps and be on your way. It’s very well built, to be quite honest.
DC fast charging is a life saver
Typically, electric vehicles do not charge fast. And can take hours and hours to charge up. But the Volvo XC40 Recharge supports DC fast charging up to 150kW. Though, even when plugged into a 150kW station or a 350kW station, we only ever saw it get up to around 120kW. Which is fine. It was still able to charge from 2% to about 80% in a little over 40 minutes. So it wasn’t a big inconvenience to be honest.
But, those faster chargers are not really available outside of the major cities. It’s really only Electrify America that has those super fast chargers available. And here in Michigan, there’s only a few locations. Luckily one was less than a mile from my apartment. So it was easy to charge up during the week that I had the XC40 Recharge.
Back to my trip to Northern Michigan, however. I stopped to charge once on the way up there. At a Chevy dealership in Midland, MI. They offer “fast” charging, but not DC fast charging. Its limited to just 25kW. Which is admittedly slow. But it allowed me to stop, let the car charge, grab something to eat and use the bathroom. While also giving me enough charge to get to the final destination in Leland, MI.
Basically, I charged once on the way there, and while I was in Leland, then once again on the way back. Fast Charging is amazing, and it really makes it easier to own an EV even if you don’t own a home where you can charge overnight.
EPA estimates the XC40 Recharge can get 208 miles, I got more than that
During the week that I was using the Volvo XC40 Recharge, I found that I was able to get way more than the EPA estimate on range. The EPA estimates about 208 miles on a full charge. Well, going from 90% down to 10% I was able to hit about 230 miles. So I’m sure I could hit 240 or even 250 miles on a 100% full charge.
Of course, that comes down to how you drive. If you drive more efficiently, then you’re going to get a ton of range on a single charge here. Which makes the 208 mile range a bit more bearable.
Things like keeping the air conditioning lower, not accelerating hard when the light turns green, etc. Can really help extend the range. Now I didn’t keep the air conditioning off, it was 90 degrees out. But I kept it comfortably low. Normally on the “auto” setting.
It drives beautifully
Like most electric cars, the Volvo XC40 Recharge drives smoothly and quietly. A lot of this is due to the electric motor that’s inside. Making it super quiet. In fact, the XC40 Recharge will beep when you are backing up, to let pedestrians know that there is an EV moving. This is not unique to the Volvo XC40 Recharge, a lot of EVs do this – the Mustang MACH-E does it too.
It can take corners pretty well, while staying flat in all four corners. That is impressive given how big this Compact SUV is. It’s actually bigger than the Compact SUV that I drive every day, and definitely weighs more, even though it is electric.
Also, like most EVs, the Volvo XC40 Recharge can accelerate very quickly. And then for longer road trips, the Adaptive Cruise Control was really nice to have. Just set the Adaptive Cruise Control to 70 (the speed limit on most Michigan highways) and enjoy the ride. Volvo does also have lane assist here, which makes the XC40 Recharge very close to a autonomous driving car. Though, Volvo won’t say that. And they still want you to pay attention. In fact, if the car thinks you’re not paying attention, it will tell you to pay attention and disengage.
I also noticed a pop up on the screen, once we drive the 250 miles to Leland, that the driver needed a break and telling me to get some coffee. I don’t think this had anything to do with my driving, just a timing thing. Since I had been driving for almost four hours.
Android Automotive is still a work in progress
One of the bigger reasons we asked Volvo to hook us up with a test drive of the XC40 Recharge was to take a look at Android Automotive. We’ve seen it at Google I/O for a few years already, but wanted to see how it handled in the car when you’re actually going somewhere. And well, it’s a mixed bag.
The idea is sound. Giving you a bigger screen for basically Android Auto, but without your phone. However, the UI is still not as intuitive as it could be. For one, switching from Maps to your Music is a few more button pushes than it should be. The app drawer is also not sorted the way you’d expect.
But perhaps, the bigger issue is that most of the apps you have and use on Android Auto, is not available on Android Automotive. And that is an issue. When looking for streaming music, it’s basically YouTube Music and Spotify, and that’s it. Apple Music and Amazon Music are both missing, among others. And the Google Play Store is pretty lacking too.
Wireless charging is a nice touch
Wireless charging isn’t really new in cars, GM has been putting it into their vehicles for years now. But it’s still a nice feature to have. Being able to put my phone down in the console and have it charge while I’m driving is nice. Especially since it’s not powering Android Auto here, so that it can actually charge without any issues.
However, the downside here is that it is very slow at charging. I’d guess it’s around 5W wireless charging here. I put my phone down to charge at about 20%, and then drove about a half hour home and it was only up to around 25%. Which I was a bit disappointed in. But hey, it’s better than nothing.
There are USB-C PD ports above the wireless charging space, so if you do need faster charging it is available. But the convenience of putting your phone down and having it charge automatically is quite nice.
So should you buy the Volvo XC40 Recharge?
The XC40 Recharge is not a cheap car, like most EVs, it’s pretty pricey. This trim costs around $55,000, putting it above the Tesla Model 3, and even the Model Y, depending on the options you choose. And the biggest thing going against the XC40 Recharge is the range. Just 208 miles is not a lot for a car that costs $60,000. If you mostly just drive around town going to work, running errands and such, then it’s probably going to be fine. But if you plan on driving longer distances and don’t live in or near a major city, this may not be the best option for you.
This is Volvo’s first fully-electric car, and just like with technology, it’s a first-generation product and is going to be improved with future EVs from Volvo.
Volvo has also announced its first built from the ground up, electric vehicle, the C40 Recharge. We don’t know everything about that model yet, like the range. But we do know that it is more expensive than the XC40 Recharge.