Volvo Cars will unveil its next generation battery electric powered C30 at the Detroit show next month, the next step in the development process from the driveable electric prototype which the company showed in Frankfurt earlier this year.

The new C30 features a complete interior and full instrumentation, as well as enhanced battery packaging. The electric car looks like the regular hatchback and offers the same safety, comfort, space and four seats as the standard car.

Lennart Stegland, director of special vehicles at the automaker, said: "The first prototype helped us identify the main technological challenges, such as battery packaging and safety issues. We have addressed these challenges without compromising the C30's personality. I am very happy with the result. The electric car for Detroit is a much more complete product."

Volvo plans to offer a test fleet for selected users to drive over a two-year trial period beginning in 2011 in order to provide feedback - not just technical but also behavioural. The Swedish Energy Agency is supporting the project with SEK150m (US$21m) of funding.

The test fleet will give Volvo experts the opportunity to study how users handle these differences. Stegland said: "Our test fleet data will be valuable in 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."

The most obvious difference inside the car is the new instruments - the gauges and graphics are different to those in a conventional car. The combined instrument shows only road speed and energy consumption. However, it also integrates a number of new symbols such as a gauge for battery charge status and other relevant information for this type of vehicle.

The car has lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged via either a regular household power socket or special roadside charging stations. Charging the battery fully takes about eight hours. If the car is recharged with renewable electricity, CO2 emissions could be almost zero in the well-to-wheel perspective.

Top speed with a fully charged battery pack is about 81mph (130km/h). Acceleration from 0 to 62mph (100km/h) takes less than 11 seconds. The car's range is up to 150km (94 miles). This covers the daily transport needs of over 90% of all motorists in Europe.

The electric motor is fitted under the bonnet while the batteries (24 kWh) are installed in the propshaft tunnel and in the space normally occupied by the fuel tank, outside the passenger compartment and away from the deformations zones.

"Consumers must feel that this type of car is attractive both to drive and own. That is why electric cars have to be as comfortable and safe and offer the same sort of performance as cars with other power sources," said Paul Gustavsson, director of electrification strategy at the automaker.

"We believe in this technology and our field test aims to demonstrate that electric cars have considerable market potential. However, offering an attractive car is not enough. What is also needed initially is a system of subsidies to make the electric car's expensive battery technology financially viable for the car buyers. We hope that the authorities and the rest of the society will follow us in our 'Drive Towards Zero' journey towards zero emissions."