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Volvo's flagship all-electric SUV embraces software-defined vehicle trend

Volvo unveiled Wednesday its flagship electric vehicle, a seven-passenger SUV loaded with sensors and software that the company hopes will push it ahead in an increasingly saturated luxury EV market.

The debut of the Volvo EX90 is a “huge step forward” in the automaker’s quest to become a fully electric brand by 2030, CEO Jim Rowan said during a livestreamed launch event. Slated to arrive early 2024, the SUV marks the brand’s “new era” of software-defined vehicles, sporting technology and safety features expected to trickle down to the rest of the lineup.

Volvo said the EV can travel up to 300 miles on a single battery charge in the U.S. and up to 370 miles based on the WLTP test cycle used in Europe. The automaker's approach diverges from rival Tesla by using lidar technology as part of its advanced driver assistance system.

The EX90 embodies Volvo’s key marketing message — that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car — as it aims for EVs to comprise half of the 1.2 million vehicles the company is targeting in mid-decade global sales.

The standard system features 16 ultrasonic sensors, eight cameras, five radar systems and lidar fitted to the roofline, helping the car see up to 820 feet in complete darkness, according to Volvo.

“All of these work together to form an invisible shield of safety,” said Rowan, who called the EX90 “the safest car Volvo has ever produced.” He said the system is designed with AI capabilities to become more tailored to the driver’s behavior over time.

As the latest in the industry’s crop of “software-defined vehicles,” the SUV relies upon core compute technology. The guts are created with partners, including Google, Apple, Nvidia, Luminar and Qualcomm.

The EX90’s range puts it about on par with the majority of new battery-electric SUVs on the market, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model X. It also features bidirectional charging to use the car’s battery as an extra energy supply source to power home appliances and feed energy back to the grid.

The automaker said Wednesday it plans to unroll a Volvo app, with details to come, and expand its subscription-based ownership and Care by Volvo maintenance programs to more cities and countries.

Clarification: Volvo said the EV can travel up to 300 miles on a single battery charge in the U.S. and up to 370 miles based on the WLTP test cycle used in Europe. A previous version of this article did not provide regional context of those two ranges.