Volvo has announced that it will limit the top speed on all its cars to 180 kph from 2020. At first glance the reasons are purely noble: Volvo declares every human life lost through an accident in a Volvo is one too many. This argument is compelling when speeding remains one of the most common reasons for fatalities in traffic. At second glance, however, the reasons are also quite practical.
The Swedish vehicle company is committing to electromobility. In 2017 CEO Håkan Samuelsson announced that they wont be developing combustion engines beyond this year. The company is going electric with buses, compact machines and trucks, not to mention electric cars with its subsidiary Polstar. For the first time this year at the Geneva Motor Show, Volvo has presented exclusively hybrid and electric cars. Here is the clinch: Slowing the speed of electric cars has numerous economic advantages.
Smaller engines are cheaper, and every kilometre per hour driven at a slower speed is better for the car’s batteries. If drivers of electric cars want to drive over 130 km/h it is at the expense of their battery range: Put simply, a speedy driver will make less distance per charge. In short, driving too fast is not only dangerous, it makes no sense. One could ask why a car-maker would want to accommodate the heavy larger batteries required for extra speed, that otherwise don’t contribute to the overall performance of the car. Safety is also a brand characteristic for Volvo, so setting an overall speed limit is catering to the reasons drivers prefer Volvo over other models.
The only place in the world where setting a car’s speed limit at 180 km/h would limit a driver’s legal possibilities is in Germany. Germany is currently debating whether they should introduce speed limits on highways like the rest of the world. Germany’s Minister for Transport blustered that such a suggestion “goes against all common sense”. But Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson and transport experts disagree. “We’ll attract more buyers than we lose.” reveals the Volvo boss. Car expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer considers this plausible. “It will not cost any customers in Germany,” predicts the president of the CAR Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg. “There will be fewer and fewer people driving 250, and they won’t be buying a Volvo either.”
What also speaks for limiting cars’ top speeds is the fact that cars capable of higher overall speeds are more often driven too fast, also in crowded urban zones. Tesla drivers, in fact, get caught speeding (also in built-up urban areas) more often than any other brand in the Netherlands, followed closely by other luxury car brands.