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Last September, Volvo introduced a proof of concept version of its all-electric C30 compact car. That car was more of a novelty than anything else; but now Volvo has done up the interior and added a complete set of instruments to bring the C30 EV to the prototype stage of a distant production version.

They will be debuting the prototype at next month’s Detroit Auto Show, and plan on producing at least 50 of them for a group of “selected users” to start test driving in 2011.

With a range of about 93 miles (150 km), the electric C30 is on par with other soon-to-debut EVs such as the Nissan LEAF or the Ford Focus BEV. Since all auto manufacturers have limited experience with EVs, Volvo wants to start with small aspirations so that it can have the opportunity to see how users handle the unique aspects of driving an electric car.

“Our test fleet data will be valuable in Volvo Cars’ development of electric cars. It will also provide crucial input for the infrastructure planners and help define which services are needed to make rechargeable cars the most attractive choice in the future,” said Lennart Stegland, Director of Volvo Cars Special Vehicles.

Volvo says they will “need to spend a lot of time” developing a transmission system that “is both comfortable and safe for the driver to handle and at the same time utilizes the battery’s capacity optimally at different speeds.” I’m not sure what this PR speak means, exactly, but it can’t be that hard to build a transmission for an EV. I mean, really, of all the engineering and design considerations that go into developing an EV, it seems like the transmission is something that is a fairly robust technology at this point, no?

Volvo claims that the C30 will have all of the fun of a regular C30, but without the guilt of emissions. Look, I’m all for EVs—in fact, I’ve frequently said that when compared to hydrogen or biofuels, they are clearly our only real long-term solution—but I get sick of companies trying to claim they will be “just like” driving a regular car. The fact of matter is that these first generation EVs will take some sacrifices on the part of the driver. Initially they may not be as convenient as gas cars, they will have limited range, and they will take some adjustment. They are not meant for everybody right off the bat. When companies claim they are, it does a disservice to potential EV owners.

Also, seeing as the conventional C30 goes from 0-60 mph in about 6.3 seconds (or 6.6, depending who you ask), when Volvo says the C30 BEV will go from 0-60 in 10.5 seconds, it doesn’t take a degree in science to figure out which is the more fun car—let’s face it. Sure, EVs like the uber-expensive Tesla Roadster or the Fisker Karma will get you from 0-60 mph before you realize that your eyeballs are still back at the start line, but your garden variety commuter EV will not be that fun.

Volvo has spent a lot of time developing new safety features specific to EVs in order to ensure their brand reputation for ultimate safety. These include such things as specially made battery cages and control circuits to ensure that passengers are protected in the event of an accident.

Personally, I like the style of the C30 and look forward to this car making it to production. I just hope Volvo—and all pure-electric vehicle manufacturers, for that matter—wises up and starts being more honest about things like range and capabilities of these first generation EVs, otherwise they will end up tarnishing their image before they can even make it to the second generation.

Source and Image Credits: Volvo