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Update 1: Welcome

Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge with bike

Plug-in hybrids will no longer be sold after 2035, shortly after regular petrol and diesel cars go off sale. Is this XC40 a good stepping stone on the way to an EV, or should you go straight for pure battery power?

Times have changed a lot since the last time I ran a plug-in hybrid long termer. That car (a VW Golf GTE) had to put up with a lot of long motorway drives for photoshoots, launches (or more likely) bike trips plus a commute which, at the time, was just too long. So while it was capable of using very little fuel, I didn’t often give it a chance to demonstrate it.

To balance things out I leant the Golf to one of my Bauer colleagues whose commute fit the 20-odd miles the battery could provide, and he loved it. In fact he bought one. However, if your lifestyle is as erratic as mine (used to be) then more often than not you’ll end up with a thirsty petrol engine lugging a flat battery around. So while I loved the styling and the breadth of ability with that car, it really was a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ with the fuel economy.

Times have changed though and for a lot of us the journeys we make in our cars have changed with them. Fewer photoshoots and car launches, and crucially no commute or early morning airport runs, means in my first month this plug-in Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge has gone through less than half a tank of petrol. Even my frequency of bike rides had dropped off, except for those in my garage strapped to a turbo trainer. If only there was some way of charging the battery with pedal power.

Watts

I’m sure things will change a little bit now Lockdown 2.0 is behind us – but my journeys so far have included running the kids about in the morning, going to the shops and the odd family excursion on the weekend for exercise. Rarely have these trips breached the Volvo’s claimed 28 mile battery range. Now though with an increase in work events perhaps that fuel economy will suffer.

One thing’s for certain – a car’s driving experience improves dramatically when you’re able to plug it into the wall, especially in winter. From my warm bed I can tell the Volvo to defrost itself and activate my heated seat and steering wheel so they’re toasty when I get in, all while my neighbours are still outside scraping.

That’s not all. Electric propulsion is just a nicer way to move around town. It’s unobtrusive, smooth and picks up instantly, so there’s no faffing around at roundabouts or when red lights turn to green like some of my previous cars (ahem, Audi A6 Allroad). It's also feels great to take the family out for some fresh air, and not immediately fill said air with exhaust fumes.

Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge with bikes on back

It’s a super chilled experience on faster roads too, the petrol engine occasionally chiming in to boost acceleration and then subduing itself again when you’re up to speed, making for a very quiet and relaxing cabin. In fact the best way to drive this XC40 is to work as hard as possible to keep the petrol engine out of the picture.

So, is the plug-in hybrid drivetrain in the XC40 still incompatible with my lifestyle? Would a standard petrol or pure electric make more sense? And just what is my tow bar bike rack going to do to the fuel economy? In six month’s time we’ll have answers to all those questions and more.