Volvo Cars has one of the most ambitious climate plans in the automotive industry. It is now setting into place a series of sustainability commitments, which form part of a programme called Omtanke.

Never heard that word before? Most South Africans haven’t. It is a Swedish word that means “caring” and “consideration”. It also means “to think again”. And this is precisely what Volvo is doing right now; instead of the traditional automotive approach of focusing on the development of petrol and diesel-engined cars, the company has tossed its hat into the electric ring.

Håkan Samuelsson, the company’s chief executive, has already announced that the company will transition to becoming a pure electric premium car company by 2030. “Volvo Cars is a contributor to climate change and has a responsibility to act. Sustainability is now as important to us as safety. We have dedicated our business to help protect the lives of people both inside and outside of our cars. We will now show the same dedication to help protect the planet,” he notes.

While on this sustainability journey, Samuelsson says the company is committed to creating the best cars in its 94-year history. “This is an exciting time in our development, and we will deliver on growing customer demand for pure electric cars that offer seamless connectivity, industry-leading safety standards and advanced autonomous drive,” he asserts.

Volvo Cars has ambitious plans for its next generation of fully electric cars. It aims for cars that more than double the real-world driving range compared to its current electric cars, allow for much faster battery charging and offer lower costs for owning and charging alike. By the middle of this decade, it aims to sell 1.2 million cars globally, with at least half being fully electric cars.

As part of this strategy, Volvo Cars announced that it would phase out diesel cars three years ago and, in a tangible commitment to a long-term future beyond the traditional combustion engine, it launched the then-new Volvo S60 sedan, the first Volvo to be produced without a diesel engine, in May 2018.

According to Greg Maruszewski, Managing Director at Volvo Car South Africa, the company will no longer develop a new generation of diesel engines. “We will phase out cars with only an internal combustion engine, with petrol hybrid versions as a transitional option as we move towards full electrification. The good news for lovers of internal combustion engines is that we will still have a full range of petrol and hybrid engines on offer in South Africa for some time yet,” he explains. Diesel-engined Volvos have, however, already been phased out in Korea, Japan, Australia and India. In 2021, they’re being phased out in South Africa too.

Cars with internal combustion engines will increasingly be replaced by all-electric models – such as the XC40 P8, which debuts in South Africa this year. The future direction for the company has been embraced by motorists around the world. “Sales of both our fully electric and plug-in hybrid cars grew significantly in the first half of 2021 – and they already represent 25% of the global volume. This is the highest electrification share as a proportion of total sales among traditional carmakers,” reports Maruszewski.

But zero-emission cars are only one rung in the Omtanke ladder. Volvo’s ambitious (and arguably highly credible) long-term business strategy also includes a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions per car 2025 and a stated goal of the company becoming climate neutral by 2040. Two of its Swedish plants – in Torslanda and Skövde – are already climate neutral.

It is also tackling carbon emissions in its manufacturing network, its wider operations, its supply chain and through its approach to recycling and the reuse of materials. For instance, Volvo Cars aims to be the world’s first car maker to use fossil-free steel for its vehicles.

“Volvo Cars has one of the most ambitious climate plans in the car industry, and if we are to reach our goals, we need to embrace the circular economy,” concludes Maruszewski. “This requires us to rethink everything we do and how we do it. We put a strong focus on integrating sustainability into the way we think and work as a company, and we are making it as important as safety has always been to us.”

That’s Omtanke in action.