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The Volvo EX90: Redefining Safety and Luxury for the Electric Era

As a long-time leader in automotive safety innovation, Volvo is now bringing its "zero collisions" ethos to the electric vehicle space. The Swedish automaker has pledged to phase out gas and hybrid powertrains completely by 2030, and the upcoming Volvo EX90 SUV marks a major milestone in this transition. Set to be unveiled on November 9, 2022, the EX90 aims to set a new benchmark for safety and autonomous driving capabilities, while delivering the premium craftsmanship and Scandinavian design that Volvo is known for.

Autonomous Driving Leadership

The EX90 will come equipped with one of the most advanced sensor suites ever deployed on a passenger vehicle. Its roof-mounted LiDAR array, combined with eight cameras, five radars, and sixteen ultrasonic sensors, will generate a real-time 360-degree view of the vehicle‘s environment. This rich perceptual data will be processed by NVIDIA DRIVE AI platforms, which offer a massive 254 TOPS (trillions of operations per second) of computation power.

Volvo says this cutting-edge sensor and compute platform will enable "Ride Pilot", a Level 3 autonomous driving system that will allow the vehicle to drive itself in certain conditions without requiring the driver to supervise. Volvo has not yet specified exactly what those conditions will be, but highway driving seems like a logical use case. The company is taking a cautious approach to rolling out Ride Pilot, with plans to offer it only in California at first starting in 2024.

This puts Volvo in a similar position as Mercedes, which recently received approval for its Level 3 "Drive Pilot" system in Nevada. In contrast, Tesla‘s so-called "Full Self Driving" (FSD) is still considered a Level 2 system by most industry experts, as it requires constant driver supervision. GM‘s Super Cruise and Ford‘s BlueCruise are also Level 2 systems available on certain highways.

While Volvo may be trailing Tesla in terms of EV sales volume and brand cachet, it could leapfrog them in autonomous driving capabilities with the EX90. Volvo‘s long track record of safety leadership and conservative approach to new technology rollouts lends credibility to its autonomous ambitions. "We will not compromise on safety, and this means we will do the validation miles needed before we let customers use the system in their cars," said Ödgärd Andersson, CEO of Volvo Autonomous Solutions.

Electrifying Volvo‘s Future

The EX90 will be built on Volvo‘s new SPA2 electric vehicle architecture, which will also underpin the forthcoming Polestar 3 SUV from Volvo‘s spinoff performance brand. This modular platform is designed for fast charging, long range, and high performance.

Technical details are scarce, but a battery capacity around 100 kWh and DC fast charging up to 250 kW seem likely based on competitor offerings. For reference, the Audi e-tron and BMW iX can charge at up to 150 kW and 200 kW respectively, enabling 10-80% charging in under 40 minutes. Tesla‘s V3 Superchargers offer peak rates of 250 kW. Expect the EX90 to offer competitive charging speeds.

Range is another key metric where the EX90 will need to match or beat existing vehicles to be successful. The Tesla Model X offers up to 348 miles of EPA estimated range in Long Range trim, while the BMW iX xDrive50 is rated for 324 miles. The Audi e-tron‘s 222-mile range shows how quickly the market is advancing.

To support long distance travel, Volvo plans to build a global network of 2,500 high-speed charging points by 2025, including 1,000 in the US. The company is partnering with ChargePoint in the US and plans to offer Plug & Charge capability, enabling automatic authentication and billing when customers plug into compatible chargers.

Software-Defined Vehicles

The EX90 represents the automotive industry‘s accelerating shift towards software and electronics as the key drivers of innovation and value creation. Volvo says the EX90 will have "more software and computer power than any previous Volvo", with a central core system capable of processing data from the vehicle‘s exterior and interior sensors.

Over-the-air software updates will allow the EX90‘s features and capabilities to improve over time, similar to how Tesla pioneered continual upgrades for its vehicles. Volvo plans to use the EX90‘s connectivity and sensor suite to crowdsource real-world data and improve its autonomous driving systems based on the experiences of early customers.

This software-centric approach will enable new business models as well. Volvo has hinted at potentially offering Ride Pilot as a subscription service, which would allow them to deploy autonomous driving in phases while still monetizing the feature. A "freemium" model could give customers access to certain autonomous or driver assistance features for free, with more advanced functionality available for a recurring fee.

GM has taken a similar approach with Super Cruise, which is free for the first three years on certain models and then requires a paid subscription. Tesla increased the price of its FSD option to $15,000 in September 2022. As Level 3 and higher autonomous systems come to market, expect to see more experimentation with pricing and business models as automakers try to recoup their substantial R&D investments.

The Competitive Landscape

The EX90 will enter an increasingly crowded field of electric luxury SUVs when it arrives in late 2023. Through the first three quarters of 2022, Tesla delivered over 88,000 Model Xs globally, maintaining its lead in the large electric SUV segment. In the US, the Model X‘s share of the large luxury SUV market was 12% through August 2022, according to registration data from Experian.

However, legacy automakers are rapidly electrifying their popular SUV nameplates and bringing new models to market. The BMW iX and Audi e-tron have emerged as strong competitors to the Model X, with both selling over 30,000 units globally in 2021. The Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV, Rivian R1S, and future electric Range Rover will further expand the choices available to premium EV buyers.

To stand out in this competitive set, the EX90 will need to deliver on Volvo‘s safety reputation while matching competitors on performance, efficiency, and technology. Volvo‘s target customer likely prizes security and comfort over outright speed or flash. Nailing the details on materials, craftsmanship, and user experience will be critical to attract buyers from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes.

Pricing will also play a major role in the EX90‘s success. The Model X starts at $120,990 in the US, while the BMW iX ranges from $84,100 to over $108,000. The Audi e-tron tops out around $92,000 with all options. A starting price around $80,000 would position the EX90 to conquest sales from traditional gas-powered European luxury SUVs.

Investor Takeaways

For Volvo, the EX90 is not just another model, but an avatar for the company‘s future direction. "The Volvo EX90 represents the start of a new era for Volvo Cars, taking our legacy of safety, quality and innovation into the future," said Jim Rowan, CEO of Volvo Cars. The company‘s aggressive electrification targets—50% of sales by 2025 and 100% by 2030—hinge on the EX90 and subsequent EVs driving significant volume growth.

The EX90‘s SPA2 platform will underpin a range of future battery-electric Volvos in the coming years, likely starting with a midsize electric SUV to replace the current XC60. The economics of this dedicated EV architecture will be key to achieving profitability as Volvo scales up its electric production.

Volvo is investing heavily to secure battery supply and drive down costs. The company has announced plans for joint venture battery factories with Swedish firm Northvolt in Europe and is exploring a similar partnership for North America. Bringing more battery production in-house and closer to vehicle assembly points will help Volvo manage supply chain risks and potentially achieve lower costs than competitors who rely more heavily on third-party cell suppliers.

Volvo‘s early embrace of bidirectional charging could also prove advantageous as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications become more prevalent. The company has already demonstrated using electric cars to power homes and feed energy back into the grid in pilot projects. As the EX90 and other EVs proliferate, Volvo could tap into new revenue streams by aggregating and monetizing the energy storage capacity of its growing electric fleet.

Investor Risks

As with any major technological transition, Volvo‘s aggressive electrification push comes with execution risks. The company needs to manage the complexity of winding down its ICE vehicle production while ramping up EV output, all while maintaining quality and hitting cost targets. Any delays or quality issues with the EX90 could undermine confidence in Volvo‘s electric strategy and hurt the brand‘s premium image.

The EX90‘s advanced autonomous driving features also introduce liability and regulatory risks. If the Ride Pilot system fails to perform as advertised or is involved in any high-profile accidents, it could damage Volvo‘s safety reputation and invite regulatory scrutiny. Volvo will need to be transparent about the capabilities and limitations of its autonomous systems to build public trust.

Finally, macroeconomic headwinds such as inflation, rising interest rates, and geopolitical instability could dent demand for premium electric vehicles like the EX90 in the near term. While the long-term trends driving EV adoption remain robust, a recession or prolonged period of economic uncertainty could slow the pace of transition and compress Volvo‘s margins.


The Volvo EX90 represents a major milestone in the automaker‘s journey towards an all-electric future. By combining state-of-the-art safety and autonomous driving features with Scandinavian luxury and the practicality of an SUV, the EX90 has the potential to set a new standard for premium electric vehicles. However, it will face stiff competition from established players like Tesla and fast-following rivals from Germany and beyond.

Volvo‘s success with the EX90 will hinge on its ability to deliver a truly differentiated product that leverages its unique brand strengths. If the company can translate its safety leadership and understated luxury into compelling electric vehicles, it could emerge as a major player in the premium EV market. The EX90 will be the first test of this strategy, and its reception will be closely watched by customers, competitors, and investors alike.

As the automotive industry undergoes a once-in-a-century transformation, Volvo is betting big on electrification as the key to its future. With the EX90, it has a chance to redefine what a Volvo can be for a new generation of buyers. We‘ll have a much clearer picture of whether they can pull it off after the EX90 is revealed on November 9. Stay tuned.