GHENT, Belgium—Volvo Cars has started to assemble the XC40 Recharge. It is the first of several fully electric vehicles that the automaker plans to produce within the next five years to reduce its CO2 footprint per car by 40 percent. By 2025, Volvo expects 50 percent of its global sales to consist of fully electric cars, with the rest hybrids.

“Today is a momentous occasion for all employees here in Ghent,” says Javier Varela, head of global industrial operations and quality at Volvo Cars. “As we continue to electrify our line-up, the Ghent plant is a real trailblazer for our global manufacturing network.

“The start of customer car production follows a period of preparation in which the Ghent plant has built a limited number of preproduction cars,” explains Varela. “This process, standard procedure for every new model, aims to optimize the production flow and ensure top-notch quality of every car built. All relevant production staff has also received extensive training on safely building electric cars.”

The XC40 Recharge is based on the popular XC40 sport utility vehicle, the first Volvo to win the European Car of the Year award. It uses the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), a global mid-sized car platform developed within the Geely Group. The modular CMA platform was also used to create new electric vehicles such as the Lynk & Co. 05 and the Polestar 2.

According to Varela, the all-wheel drive XC40 Recharge has a projected range of more than 400 kilometers on a single charge and output of 408 hp. The battery can charge to 80 percent of its capacity in approximately 40 minutes on a fast-charger system.

“While building on the excellent safety standards of the original XC40, [our] engineers have completely redesigned and reinforced the frontal structure to address the absence of an engine,” explains Varela. “[For instance], the battery pack is protected by a safety cage embedded in the middle of the car’s body structure.”

Volvo also recently applied for a U.S. patent for a variable driving position system that features a steering wheel that can slide across dashboards. The next-generation wheel uses steer-by-wire technology. Placing it on a rail enables reconfigurable interiors, which will become increasingly common as autonomous vehicles enter the market. In fact, in its patent filing, Volvo refers to the five levels of driving autonomy.