What keeps the CEO of Volvo up at night?

Jim Rowan slams shareholder short-termism when the e-mobility revolution demands patient capital

What keeps the CEO of Volvo up at night?
Volvo CEO Rowan sees "massive opportunity ahead of us"

Volvo Cars CEO Jim Rowan says the thing that keeps him up at night is the same thing that gets him our of bed in the morning, speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“That is that we have a massive opportunity ahead of us. We have the technology but we also have a massive challenge. It is clear we have a global climate crisis on our doorstep," the Sino-Swedish automaker's chief says.

"What is not clear is if we have the fortitude and the collective will...or whether we are prepared to make choices that may effect the short-term results of companies for the long-term benefit of society.”

Rowan highlights the work that Volvo is doing in developing EVs, and its commitment to be 50pc electric in sales by 2025, reaching 100pc by 2030. The firm has divested its IC engine business and all its future tech platforms are fully electric.

Beyond electric

But electrification is just the tip of the iceberg for both Volvo and the wider car industry, according to Rowan. 

“The much more profound change that is going on in the industry right now is software, silicon, connectivity and data,” he says. “We as automotive companies need to invest much deeper.” 

Rowan envisions a future where every car Volvo manufactures has a ‘digital twin’ born in the cloud, enabling the firm to see everything that has been done to that car in terms of repairs, miles driven and hours charged. 

That will enable Volvo to have better oversight of how well the battery will perform for a new owner, and provide a guarantee for a further period of time if it can. As well as benefitting consumers, this will give Volvo the ability to better manage its battery supply chain.

Another part of the future envisioned by Rowan involves bi-directional charging. By 2030 Volvo estimates it will have 200GW of power on the road in the form of EV batteries. 

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But this power source can only be fully harnessed if bi-directional charging becomes widespread.

This is a latency of energy that we need to connect to the grid," Rowan says. “We need to push governments to say if [a consumer] wants to have an EV you need to have bi-directional charging. I would make it part of the homologation.”

In May, Vovo's tech fund invested in smart home energy company Dcbel as a first step on its own bi-directional journey.

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