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We drive Volvo’s first all-electric car, the £60k XC40 Recharge

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we drive volvos first all electric car the 60k xc40 recharge

Volvo’s first fully electric vehicle, the XC40 Recharge SUV,  really is a car you drive by the seat of your pants.

That’s because this elegantly proportioned family-friendly Swedish off-roader has no ignition switch and no dashboard or console button to press to fire up its electric motor.

Instead, your posterior is the trigger to starting this battery-powered vehicle.

Bottoms up: Ray Massey has been driving Volvo's first fully-electric car, the Volvo XC40 Recharge. It's not due in showrooms until 2021, but we've had early access to a pre-production model on UK roads...

Bottoms up: Ray Massey has been driving Volvo’s first fully-electric car, the Volvo XC40 Recharge. It’s not due in showrooms until 2021, but we’ve had early access to a pre-production model on UK roads…

Providing you have the electronic fob about your person, the moment your derriere lands on the driver’s seat, weight sensors inside it send a signal to start up the electric power. 

So the second you put your foot on the brake pedal (a safety measure) and move the central transmission lever into ‘Drive’ (or alternatively ‘Reverse’), you are ready to roll.

It acts in the same way that safety sensors detect the presence of child seats or alert the driver that occupants have not fastened their seat-belts.

In truth it’s a rather weird experience, especially if you have spent your life expecting that bit of excitement as an engine roars into action. 

Given the near silent start-up, a little bit of sound theatre to mark the moment of the motor sparking into life wouldn’t have gone amiss here too – a cheeky bit of in-built ‘ta-dah!’ to start your driving ceremony.

Weight sensors in the driver's seat recognise when a driver is seated and sends a signal to start up the electric power

Weight sensors in the driver’s seat recognise when a driver is seated and sends a signal to start up the electric power

Owners will need this fob to be on their person for the system to activate, though it does away with the traditional twist of a key in the ignition or a push of an 'engine start' button

Owners will need this fob to be on their person for the system to activate, though it does away with the traditional twist of a key in the ignition or a push of an ‘engine start’ button

Ray says that, given the near silent start-up, a little bit of sound theatre to mark the moment of the motor sparking into life wouldn’t have gone amiss

Ray says that, given the near silent start-up, a little bit of sound theatre to mark the moment of the motor sparking into life wouldn’t have gone amiss

To give it its full name, we have been driving the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8 First Edition – a fully-loaded compact sports utility vehicle with premium price tag of £59,985 – double the cost of a petrol version. 

But Volvo still expects to sell 1,500 in its first year.

And because the price is well over the £50,000 cap, it doesn’t qualify for the Government’s taxpayer-funded £3,000 Plug-in Car Grant. So it’s not a cheap option.

Later variants – including lower-powered and two wheel drive versions – I am assured will be more affordable. And Volvo would be mad not to have a stripped down version nudging £49,995 to get that price for consumers down to a more digestible £46,995. They’ve not confirmed it, though they’ve not denied it either…

It can also now be ordered in the UK on Volvo’s new mobile-phone style subscription service called ‘Car by Volvo’.

The model we've driven is the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8 First Edition – a fully-loaded version with premium price tag of £59,985

The model we’ve driven is the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8 First Edition – a fully-loaded version with premium price tag of £59,985

Later variants – including lower-powered and two wheel drive versions – will be more affordable and hopefully slow below the £50,000 ceiling to qualify for the taxpayer-funded £3,000 Plug-in Car Grant

Later variants – including lower-powered and two wheel drive versions – will be more affordable and hopefully slow below the £50,000 ceiling to qualify for the taxpayer-funded £3,000 Plug-in Car Grant

The no-deposit subscription of £999 per month includes the cost of leasing the vehicle, maintenance, breakdown assistance, road tax, MOT, and a 10GB data plan for the in-car entertainment system. There will also be more conventional personal contract purchase (PCP) and personal contract hire (PCH) plans.

Our undeniably Scandi-chic zero-emissions test car was a pre-production model shipped over to the UK. 

Having got our proverbial into gear on the electric XC40 we were off on a Covid-compliant launch on UK roads on a drive from the urban and suburban roads of Daventry in Northamptonshire and then over the border into neighbouring winding country lanes and fast-flowing highways of Warwickshire.

Once under way, the XC40 Recharge is a smooth, quiet, genteel and well-mannered mover around town. 

Will it fit in my garage? 

33865606 8795043 image a 47 1601567140565

Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8 ‘First Edition’

Price: £59,985

On sale: Now

First UK deliveries: Early 2021  

Length: 4425mm 

Width: 2034mm 

Height: 1651mm

Ground clearance: 176mm

Weight: 2188kg

Mode: Pure electric. Battery

Drivetrain: Two electric motors (one on each axle)

Power: 408 horse-power. 

Drive: All-wheel drive

Battery: 78 kWh

0-to-62mph: 4.9 seconds

Top speed: Restricted to 112mph

Boot capacity: 414 litres

Front trunk volume: 31 metres 

As is the sweeping generalisation about Scandinavian folk, it is very polite and charming, though a little reserved at first. But then once you get comfortable and have spent a bit of time together, you suddenly discover a rather fun-loving and raucous side to the character as the ‘inner Viking’ emerges. 

And sure enough, once we had the opportunity to put our foot down, it really did set sail. 

Powered by twin electric motors – one on each axle – producing a hefty 408hp, it wooshes from rest to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds – putting it well into sports car territory. 

You can get by extensively driving in ‘one pedal’ mode, using just the accelerator to press ahead and taking advantage of enhanced regenerative braking to slow the car down when you take your foot off the gas. 

Consequently, this improves your driving behaviour, as it forces the user to anticipate more for roundabouts, junctions and traffic ahead, when you want to ease off the pedal and slow down with more a natural deceleration, rather than jumping constantly from accelerator to brake.

However, in line with its aim to reduce casualties on the road, all Volvos, including this one, now have their top speed limited to 112mph. So Germans on their de-restricted Autobahns will have their wings clipped.

They’re also sold with a Care Key for parents to issue to their recently-qualified offspring, which allows them to recalibrate the top speed to anything from 31mph when the key is in use.

With a claimed range of up to 260 miles on a single charge, Volvo bosses say it is more than sufficient for the average UK daily drive which averages around 30 miles.

But anyone planning a long distance journey – say 300 miles from London to Newcastle – would have to plan a recharge stop en route. 

Happily however, it will just about manage the 253 mile journey from Downing Street to Barnard Castle on a full charge, should Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political adviser Dominic Cummings be in urgent need of another eye-test.

The Swedish firm which is owned by Chinese car giant Geely, says batteries will reach 80 per cent of capacity in 40 minutes on a fast charger, with a domestic wall box doing the job at home overnight in about 10 hours. 

With a claimed range of up to 260 miles on a single charge, Volvo bosses say it is more than sufficient for the average UK daily drive which averages around 30 miles

With a claimed range of up to 260 miles on a single charge, Volvo bosses say it is more than sufficient for the average UK daily drive which averages around 30 miles

The Swedish firm which is owned by Chinese car giant Geely, says batteries will reach 80 per cent of capacity in 40 minutes on a fast charger, with a domestic wall box doing the job at home overnight in about 10 hours

The Swedish firm which is owned by Chinese car giant Geely, says batteries will reach 80 per cent of capacity in 40 minutes on a fast charger, with a domestic wall box doing the job at home overnight in about 10 hours

Volvo has optimistic plans for half of its cars to be fully electric by 2025. The other half will be hybrids, it claims

Volvo has optimistic plans for half of its cars to be fully electric by 2025. The other half will be hybrids, it claims

The new XC40 Recharge is the first of five pure electric Volvos to be launched by the Swedish car firm over the next five years – a battery-only flagship XC90 is among those in the pipeline – which aims to have half of its cars fully electric by 2025, the rest as hybrids.

Order books are open now with first UK deliveries from early next year.  

Although Volvo’s headquarters are based in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, the new all-electric XC40 Recharge is actually built in Ghent, in Belgium, alongside the rest of the XC40 range which cost from £29,720 for the 2.0 litre petrol and mild hybrid variants, and £39,130 for the plug-in petrol-electric hybrid (PHEV) versions. 

Powered by twin electric motors – one on each axle - producing a hefty 408hp, it wooshes from rest to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds - putting it well into sports car territory

Powered by twin electric motors – one on each axle – producing a hefty 408hp, it wooshes from rest to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds – putting it well into sports car territory

In line with its aim to reduce casualties on the road, all Volvos now have their top speed limited to 112mph

In line with its aim to reduce casualties on the road, all Volvos now have their top speed limited to 112mph

With ample rear passenger seat space, the XC40 is a more than capable family car for blossoming families

With ample rear passenger seat space, the XC40 is a more than capable family car for blossoming families

The petrol XC40 was originally launched back in 2018, when it won the prestigious European Car of the Year Award.

The XC40 Recharge is also first Volvo to include the Google Android-powered infotainment system – using the expertise of that firm rather than trying to devise its own system.

The absence of an internal combustion petrol or diesel engine means extra storage space for the family. An additional 30-litre storage compartment – dubbed a front trunk or ‘frunk’ sits under the front bonnet – while placing batteries under the centre of the car means space is not compromised elsewhere.

There’s a hands-free hatchback door into the 414-litre boot, accessed by wiggling your foot under the bumper to trigger a sensor.

he absence of an internal combustion petrol or diesel engine means extra storage space for the family. An additional 30-litre storage compartment – dubbed a front trunk or ‘frunk’ sits under the front bonnet

he absence of an internal combustion petrol or diesel engine means extra storage space for the family. An additional 30-litre storage compartment – dubbed a front trunk or ‘frunk’ sits under the front bonnet

There’s a hands-free hatchback door into the 414-litre boot, accessed by wiggling your foot under the bumper to trigger a sensor
Fold the rear passenger seatbacks flat and it becomes a van-like transporter of goods
Slide me

There’s a hands-free hatchback door into the 414-litre boot, accessed by wiggling your foot under the bumper to trigger a sensor. Fold the rear passenger seatbacks flat and it becomes a van-like transporter of goods

Other clever interior touches include a removable waste bin, a fold-out hook in the glove compartment for bags – ideal for take-ways, curries and hand-bags - and a useful boot divider complete with hooks for keeping shopping bags separate and upright

Other clever interior touches include a removable waste bin, a fold-out hook in the glove compartment for bags – ideal for take-ways, curries and hand-bags – and a useful boot divider complete with hooks for keeping shopping bags separate and upright

Other clever interior touches include a removable waste bin, a fold-out hook in the glove compartment for bags – ideal for take-ways, curries and hand-bags – and a useful boot divider complete with hooks for keeping shopping bags separate and upright. Door linings and carpets made from 97 per cent recycled plastic bottles.

A pair of large front door bins replace loudspeakers traditionally stored in the doors which have been moved to the base of the windscreen. And for the first time on a Volvo car, software and operating system updates will be available over the air.

The XC40 Recharge Pure Electric is also the first Volvo to feature a new version of ‘Pilot Assist’ driver-assistance technology that deploys steering, acceleration and braking support to help take the strain during long motorway journeys and sitting in traffic. The system now uses Google Maps for information such as speed limits and curves in the road to improve its functionality.

A new ‘Emergency Stop Assist’ function brings the car to a safe stop, after a series of warnings, if the driver is not holding the steering wheel. 

Despite this array of tech, we were most intrigued as to why Volvo had dispensed with the starter button or ignition key on their first pure electric car, in favour of its ‘bums on seats’ philosophy. So we asked the experts who devised it.

Beatrice Simonsson, senior project manager for the XC40 Recharge explained: ‘We wanted to make life less complicated for our users and therefore with an electric car we had the opportunity to take away the start/stop button.

‘The only thing the driver needs to do is to sit down in the seat, close the door, press the brake pedal and choose drive or reverse and then off you go. 

‘Of course, for safety reason, put on your seat belt as well!’

Fair enough. 

As they say in Sweden, it’s ‘skol’ or ‘cheers’ to the new XC40 Recharge. Or, given its posterior-triggered electric motors, should that really be ‘bottoms up’? 

SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Is Europe next stop for profits? EU firms could boost your capital 

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is europe next stop for profits eu firms could boost your capital

As the rows continue over the terms of our exit from the European Union, now could be the moment to reconsider investing on the Continent.

Many people who have made a pile in US tech are looking for new opportunities. And these could be on offer in European markets, even amid Brexit apprehension and mounting Covid-19 anxiety.

Such a diversification requires strong nerves, however. Following a record GDP rebound in the third quarter, economists are cutting their fourth-quarter forecasts, in response to Covid restrictions.

The Stoxx 600 share index contains some booming businesses such as Logitech, the Swiss-US maker of computer handsets and keyboards, whose third-quarter sales were up 75 per cent

The Stoxx 600 share index contains some booming businesses such as Logitech, the Swiss-US maker of computer handsets and keyboards, whose third-quarter sales were up 75 per cent

The Stoxx 600 share index contains some booming businesses such as Logitech, the Swiss-US maker of computer handsets and keyboards, whose third-quarter sales were up 75 per cent

The French capital may be known as the city of light but is currently dark, its cafes shuttered.

The Stoxx 600 share index, which includes companies of all sizes in 17 EU and non-EU member states, is in an unhappy condition, weighed down by banks and utility groups whose profits are falling.

Yet it also contains some booming businesses such as Logitech, the Swiss-US maker of computer handsets and keyboards, whose third-quarter sales were up 75 per cent. 

Since January, its shares have leapt from 46 Swiss francs to 81 Swiss francs.

The achievements of such European tech groups rarely hit the headlines, unlike Wirecard, the fraudulent German payments group which collapsed in June.

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34765166 8873285 image a 3 1603481960804

Without this infamous business, the Dax, the German index, has done fairly well, as Nick Peters, multi-asset manager at Fidelity, points out. 

China’s strong revival is a boon to the Dax, which is full of exporters like Volkswagen.

Over the next few weeks, the focus will be on the fortunes of household names like luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, along with lesser-known giants such as Covestro, the German polymer manufacturer.

These two may have delivered third-quarter profit increases. But can they, and other companies that have bounced back, sustain this performance?

Peters says that analysts believe 2021 should be a better year, on the basis that EU governments will continue to rely on local lockdowns to limit the damage to their economies, rather than national ones.

Aiding this resurgence will be the €750billion (£576billion) EU recovery fund, which is targeted at struggling countries.

Of course, closer unity may not be the consequence of this subsidy for the South, financed by the thrifty North. 

Jamie Ross, portfolio manager of Henderson Euro Trust, asks: ‘Will this transfer of wealth bring the EU closer together? Or will it spark angst over the continuation of the European project?’

Good question. Yet whatever the fate of the EU, Ross argues that Europe has many businesses set to prosper from lifestyle changes taking hold around the world, spurred by lockdown.

Amazon and the rest of its Silicon Valley ilk are not the only winners from the shift to online.

Ross lists Embracer, the Swedish gaming company whose shares have doubled in 12 months, along with Scout 24, Germany’s equivalent to Rightmove.

He also likes Zur Rose, the Swiss ecommerce pharmacy and Delivery Hero, the German food delivery group which operates in Europe and Africa, America, Asia and the Middle East.

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34765164 8873285 image a 5 1603481965459

Delivery Hero is loss-making but analyst Sherri Malek of RBC – which rates the shares as a buy – believes that they could rise significantly, as more households prefer to let someone else do the cooking.

Rather than holding traditional bank shares, Ross prefers outfits like Nexi, an Italian payments business and Prosus, the Dutch tech investor which has a 31 per cent stake in Tencent, owner of the Chinese We Chat app with its 1.7billion users.

Buying shares in Prosus, which stand at €80, up from €68 at the start of the year, combines a bet on Europe with a cheap-ish way into booming Tencent.

Anyone now wondering how to get more exposure to Europe could look at Fundsmith, that small investor favourite (of which I am a holder). Its second-largest holding is Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

Since March, its shares have risen from 352 Danish krone to 446 Danish krone, driven by demand during the pandemic.

Baillie Gifford European Growth, another popular trust, has Prosus, plus Berlin-based Zalando, the fashion site whose shares have moved from €41 to €84 over the past 12 months.

Fidelity Europe owns Nestle, which has this week reported stronger-than-expected growth, propelled by a lockdown love for pasta and pizza.

If you already have many of these holdings, Interactive Investor’s adventurous recommendation is TM Crux European Special Situations. Worth a look whether you will be celebrating on December 31, or not.

Popular Shares – BP

BP backers will hope for light at the end of the tunnel when the oil major reports its third-quarter results on Tuesday.

After a cataclysmic year thanks to Covid, many will have their fingers crossed that all the bad news has been announced. 

The prized dividend has been chopped in half, it plans to cut 10,000 of its 70,000 workers, and it has predicted oil demand may never get back to 2019 levels.

Shares are at around 26-year lows, having fallen in value by more than 55 per cent this year.

Indications that finances are stabilising and that its restructuring is on track could be enough to soothe the most anxious investors. 

Analysts are bracing for BP to post a loss of £273million, compared with profit of £1.8billion in the same period of last year, according to estimates from Reuters.

This would be a fraction of its last quarterly loss, which came in at £13.5billion. The preservation of the dividend – even at its current levels – will be a major concern, but it is likely to stay.

Investors will also be keen to see how new-ish boss Bernard Looney’s green strategy is taking shape, especially if there are more deals waiting in the wings after it signed an £850million contract to buy stakes in two US wind farms last month.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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ALEX BRUMMER: Private equity predators land in the UK

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The arrival of Lone Star on the scene as the saviour of retirement home builder McCarthy & Stone provokes fears of a financial dystopia where the UK’s future is decided not here but by anonymous tycoons based in Texas.

In the first decade of the 21st century there was an overseas buying spree of British firms, mostly by Continental and US trade buyers.

Dutch chemical group Akzo Nobel bought the rump of ICI, custodian of Dulux paints, and has invested heavily in the brand and built a spanking new R&D campus at Felling in the north-east. Under Tata ownership the design-led Jaguar Land Rover car marques became challengers again in the luxury motoring bracket.

On the prowl: Private equity owners seek to use cheap debt to make as quick a turn as possible on their investment

On the prowl: Private equity owners seek to use cheap debt to make as quick a turn as possible on their investment

On the prowl: Private equity owners seek to use cheap debt to make as quick a turn as possible on their investment

Private equity owners have a different agenda. They seek to use cheap debt to make as quick a turn as possible on their investment. Shares quoted on the London Stock Exchange have become an easy target. The UK market has underperformed most advanced nations because of the shadow of Brexit.

Property is proving a soft target because of the depressing effect of Covid on rents.

The Lone Star bid for McCarthy & Stone, tainted by its past connection with rapacious Peverel, is a case in point. The £630million offer looks generous because of a 39 per cent premium to the pre-bid share price.

But it is way below where the shares traded before the pandemic. The latest private equity intervention came after Countrywide’s rambunctious boss Peter Long sought to surrender control of the estate agency – owner of Hamptons and John D Wood – to Alchemy.

Canada’s Brookfield is building a stake in British Land, one of the leading quoted real estate groups. Ever-ambitious KKR has established a bridgehead at Great Portland Estates, with a 5 per cent stake.

Under the badge of Garda World, the private equity firm BC Partners is trying its luck with a low-ball £3billion bid for security firm G4S, which has been firmly repulsed. 

Off the radar, Advent, the private equity buyer of Cobham, is cutting jobs at the Dorset aerospace pioneer quietly.

Private equity has no concept of national interest. Operating behind closed doors, the returns for overseas partners and investors take priority.

It is a dispiriting prospect for Britain as we plan for a post-Brexit future.

Staley’s stand

Investment banking is not so bad after all. The valiant effort by Jes Staley to make Barclays Europe’s most effective player in the wholesale markets is paying off.

Trading revenue climbed sharply and fixed income in particular was up 23 per cent, which places it on a par with the big American players JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

Running a UK bank during Covid-19 is not easy. Vast bad debt write-offs in the first half drove the share price down by 37 per cent. The third quarter was better as the UK consumer emerged from hibernation.

Quarterly profit climbed to £611million from a loss of £292million last year. The litigation and regulatory overhang of the financial crisis is fading now, and Covid is the main concern.

Barclays is pessimistic about the loss of UK output and obviously is preparing investors for the worst. 

Nevertheless, bad loan provisions were lower than expected. Staley is adamant that if the Bank of England were to opt for negative interest rates it would be another blow to a sector feeling the strain.

The long debate about Barclays’ exposure to investment banking, sparked by Ed Bramson of Sherborne, is an ever-present incentive to Staley to keep pushing the envelope. But there will always be voices arguing that it’s too risky and too capital-intensive.

Staley has shown great personal staying power in the face of the whistleblower scandal and questions about past associations with the late, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. But his work will have been in vain if his successors decide that running an investment bank is not worth the effort.

Deep waters

Water is in the headlights at present with an outbreak of hostilities between the regulator Ofwat and the Competition and Markets Authority over the next five-year price settlement.

South West Water owner Pennon, meanwhile, is taking advantage of the new deal by offering customers a choice between a price cut of £20 or shares in the owner.

An amazing 52,295 people, which is the equivalent of a town the size of Paignton on the English Riviera, chose Pennon stock.

Hosepipe capitalism lives on.

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DIRECTOR DEALS: Marshalls finance director Jack Clarke

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34765544 8873551 image m 3 1603482622632

34765544 8873551 image m 3 1603482622632

The finance director of paving and urban design firm Marshalls has sold £421,365 of stock. Jack Clarke offloaded 58,432 shares for 721.2p apiece.

Clarke, 54, said it was for ‘personal tax purposes’ and that he still owned more than the minimum requirement of 200 per cent of his salary. 

He has been with the company since 2014.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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