Volvo's C40 Recharge: Electrifying Scandinavian Design

Volvo says that an impromptu design sketch led to the rapid development of the new 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge. (Volvo Car USA)

The C40 Recharge may not be Volvo Cars’ first fully electric vehicle (EV) but is the automaker’s first vehicle designed as an EV from the ground up. According to a new set of interviews with the car’s designers, the C40 Recharge’s design was inspired by its Scandinavian roots.

After a team member presented a spontaneous sketch, the C40 Recharge’s design process sparked immediately from there. According to T. Jon Mayer, Volvo Cars’ head of exterior design, this is a rare opportunity. “That doesn’t happen very frequently. When it does, it’s always some of the more characterful ideas that flourish because it’s such a pure statement from that first sketch,” Mayer said.

A coupe SUV sitting on large wheels, the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge is unique to the Swedish carmaker’s lineup as it’s neither a traditional SUV nor a sedan. According to the designers, this reflects both Volvo’s commitment to safety and Scandinavian humble confidence. “It communicates a solidity, which can also link to a feeling of safety,” Mayer said. “Subconsciously, this is a powerful beast that’s protective, yet we sculpt it in a way to make it as lightweight and efficient as possible.”

Volvo's C40 Recharge: Electrifying Scandinavian Design

The 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge is the first of the company’s vehicles that will not offer leather upholstery. The automaker strove to develop an interior using sustainable materials. (Volvo Car USA)

The vehicle’s relationship with light is also an homage to life in Scandinavia. “In Sweden, it’s dark and grey most of the year – but when the sun shines, the colors come to life much more vibrantly than anywhere else,” said Lisa Reeves, head of interior design. To leverage all available light, the C40 Recharge features a panoramic glass roof.

Inspired by the coastal inlets, a deep Fjord Blue color marks transitions from exterior to interior. The dashboard graphics and front door panels are composed of backlit translucent graphics to reflect the dramatic elements of Abisko National Park in Sweden. Like Scandinavian design itself, the C40 Recharge embraces minimalism, as is evident in the instrument panel.

Authenticity is also a large part of the vehicle’s fundamental values. “Part of our design language is about honesty, and the reality is that we don’t need a large air intake for an electric car,” said Robyn Page, senior vice president of design. Thus, the upcoming 40-based lineup of electric vehicles will include a sculpted, grille-less front and a contrasting roof.

The C40 Recharge is Volvo Cars’ first leather-free vehicle, and addresses issues of sustainability through the selection of materials for the cabin. Instead of using leather, Volvo employs wool fibers to compose the upholstery, while the cabin’s synthetic suede employs recycled plastic. In addition, the carpets are made of 100-percent recycled PET plastics, while the trim panels include elements of recycled plastic.

The C40 Recharge is available to order online only – another first for Volvo Cars. It is slated to begin production in the fall of 2021.

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