For 16 years, Benoît Duval has been in charge of company cars at SAP Labs. After more than four years driving a Tesla Model 3, he chose the electric Volvo XC40 in its four-wheel drive Twin version. For Automobile Propre, he explains his decision and discusses the conversion to electric of the company’s company vehicle fleet.
Discovery of electric in 2015
Specializing in business management software, SAP Labs has already completely converted its fleet of company cars, which ranges between 250 and 300 electric models at the Mougins headquarters and in its branches in Caen and Paris.
Benoît Duval currently has two missions in this company: “ For 23 years, I have been a development and support engineer for software for the public sector. 16 years ago, I started working on company cars on the side. ».
It has already been more than eight years since this company, founded in 1998, turned to electricity: “ In 2015, we took six Renault Zoé. It was both about making us aware of what they were and creating a bit of buzz. Solar panels had already been installed on the Mougins site. Currently, the installed power of this plant is 100 kWp. It is coupled with a storage battery with a capacity of 150 kWh. The car park is equipped with 60 charging points for 180 electric company cars at headquarters. It’s a whole ecosystem ».
The year 2019 was marked by two events at SAP Labs: “ The decision was made to only accept electric vehicles as company vehicles. The same year, the Tesla Model 3 was a real hit with us. The last leasing on thermal engines ended in 2022 ».
An all-electric fleet for several months
Now that the fleet of electric company cars is entirely made up of electric models, the list has become very diversified: “ It ranges from the Renault Zoé and Peugeot e-208 to the Tesla Model Y, provided that the model appears in the catalog of the ALD leasing company through which we go. This openness allows employees to take what they want. If the rent exceeds the company’s maximum contribution, the employee puts in the difference. This protocol is applicable to everyone, including members of management ».
The American brand is particularly represented: “ The fleet includes 60% Tesla. Employees commonly choose family cars because they are also used for their private trips and vacations. ».
When electric vehicles were not yet all equipped with a battery with a comfortable energy capacity, SAP Labs had implemented an interesting system: “ We had access to the company pool to occasionally use a thermal model allowing us to travel further afield on occasion, including for our personal needs. This possibility has been removed due to the extension of autonomy ».
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A Volkswagen e-Golf to start
Benoît Duval has already used several models of electric cars: “ I have been driving an EV since 2018. I started with a Volkswagen e-Golf. It was a very good car that all four of us loved in our household. Its only fault was not having a lot of autonomy, but we still went skiing with it. It was practical and comfortable. It was a real Volkswagen with the level of finish that one would expect from the brand, and that one does not find today on the ID.3. The manufacturer missed the boat with the latter ».
Our interviewee then moved on to the Tesla Model 3: “ I used it for four and a half years. I chose it for its autonomy and because it is spacious. The American manufacturer’s models are very good electric cars. If a Model 2, or whatever it was called, had come out, I could have taken it because now the girls are big ».
He had also thought about the Model Y in September 2022: “ The two-stage increases ended up increasing the price by around 10,000 euros. I dropped. It’s like that when the manufacturer encounters difficulties in supplying its cars, it increases its prices. He then experienced problems in China, in his Shanghai factory. ».
Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin received at the end of October 2023
The 55-year-old engineer at SAP Labs lists several reasons which pushed him to choose the Volvo XC40 Recharge, two of which are somewhat related: “ Better comfort and ground clearance allowing you not to stress at the slightest slope. The Tesla Model 3 is low with a long wheelbase. When you go down into a parking lot and come to a plateau, it’s not uncommon to hit the ground with it ».
And more particularly regarding comfort: “ The suspensions are more pleasant. I barely feel the ruts in the road. On the other hand, compared to the Model 3, it rolls. I also prefer the XC40’s cloth seats. When it’s hot, those in the sedan, in vegetable leather made with pineapple fiber, are hellish. We should suffer less in the summer with the new car we received two weeks ago ».
He also finds with pleasure “ direct access via stalk to the windshield wipers and a sunroof. The latter was not decisive but I am very happy to have one “. He also appreciates “ the Google interface compatible with Apple CarPlay which provides applications such as Waze, the electrically retractable tow hook and, available as an option, Matrix-Led lighting ».
Less greedy than the first models
Reading the speed on the Tesla Model 3 screen posed no problem for him: “ Before it, there were other cars, thermal, which displayed this information in the middle of the dashboard and it did not pose a problem. For me, the ideal would be to have a pairing with a heads-up display ».
Benoît Duval, on the other hand, finds that on the Volvo XC40 « the screen is small, there is no lighting for the passengers in the rear, the screen printing on the plastic of the dashboard is not extraordinary and the visibility in the front is not excellent. The latter was better on the Model 3 due in particular to a lower dashboard ».
He also points to greater consumption: “ After a few hundred kilometers traveled behind the wheel of the XC40, I estimate that it consumes around 2 kWh/100 km more than the Model 3 for mixed use. I will have a more precise idea at Christmas with our 1,700 km round trip to Gironde ».
This car displays a phenomenal power of 300 kW (408 hp) for a WLTP range of up to 537 km in Twin version: “ Volvo has changed engines. He makes them himself now. With technology closer to what Tesla does, they consume less than the first models. The XC40 Twin gains in autonomy, especially since the battery has gone from 74 to 78 useful kilowatt hours. Most of the time, the vehicle runs on rear-wheel drive and switches to all-wheel drive when necessary. ».
Direct current charging power has also increased: “ It can now go up to 200 kW, compared to 150 kW previously. Which allows you to go from 10 to 80% energy in 27 minutes ».
Elected after a weekend loan
Shortly, the Volvo XC40 found itself in competition with the Skoda Enyaq: “ It’s a nice model, with very nice seats, which can also be fitted with a sunroof and a retractable tow hook. I appreciated the XC40 more after testing it for a whole weekend. I have always found it aesthetically successful. Since we have had it, we have already driven in the city, on the highway and a little in the mountains with it. My wife and I are very happy to have chosen this model. What we felt first when getting out of the Model 3 was comfort ».
Change also in terms of driving aids: “ On the Tesla, I had Full Autopilot. I thought it was really great, but it was still oversold. Partly due to European regulations which do not allow it to be exploited to the maximum. The car signals that you can overtake but does not do so on its own. In addition, if you touch the steering wheel, the system disconnects, unlike that of the Volvo XC40 ».
Benoît Duval has already noticed that his new car is well soundproofed: “ No air noise is heard. There is a bit of a new ride, probably due to the all-season tires. However, you only notice it if you pay attention to it. With similar tires, the Model 3 was quieter ».
A frunk, but not yet V2G
The frunk is a popular piece of equipment on Teslas: “ There is also one on the Volvo XC40. It allows you to accommodate in particular the two charging cables and the triangle. They would of course find their place in the double bottom of the trunk, but for two reasons I prefer to put them at the front ».
He details: “ First of all to use the hooks at the back to hold the shopping bags. But also during vacation, if the trunk is full and we have the possibility of recharging from a domestic socket at an acquaintance’s house, we do not need to remove the luggage to retrieve the cable ».
Our interlocutor is open to V2G technology for which the Volvo XC40 is not currently compatible: “ Volvo is coming, with its EX90 model. It’s good, for example, when you have solar panels. I am interested in V2G. I think it really is the future. Today, we have too empirical a way of using energy ».
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Soon 12 Volvo XC40s at SAP Labs
More Volvo XC40 at SAP Labs: “ Including mine, there are currently two. Colleagues came to ask my opinion on this model. Around ten examples have been on order with the company since then, and we already have requests for the Volvo EX30. For its part, the dealership we passed through noticed that sales of the XC40 are constantly increasing. ».
During the charging stops, the engineer noted: “ People are still curious about electric cars. It is mainly people from the age of fifty who come to find out ».
Automobile Propre and I would like to thank Benoît Duval very much for his telephone reception and for responding positively immediately to our interview request.
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