Polestar continues developing its carbon-neutral car, the Polestar 0, which is planned for 2030.
The company has teamed up with 17 different partners for the project, from traditional automotive industrialists like ZF to a decarbonized research consortium.
Polestar will encourage owners to hang onto their vehicles, while also ending the common automotive practice of marketing a lightly refreshed vehicle as all-new.
Polestar is a company that doesn't rest on the laurels of the automotive industry. Electrification is the way forward, the Swedish company says, and sustainability doesn't stop there. As the company moves toward its goal of creating a carbon-neutral car, a project known as Polestar 0, the details are starting to fill in. This project will take several years, and Polestar seems to be taking it deadly serious.
The company has already announced 12 new partners in its carbon-neutral construction journey. Fossil-free steel mills, paper-based fiber composite manufacturers, and even a carbon neutrality research consortium have all signed on to help build an environmentally friendly vehicle. Finding the right materials is half the journey to creating a proper car, but it doesn't close the loop entirely. Polestar will still be responsible for manufacturing the car in a way that offsets its environmental byproducts, a challenge that still hinders legacy manufacturers.
In a turn of auto-manufacturer transparency, Polestar admits it will struggle with this process as well. But this doesn't mean the company is discouraged, according to Fredrika Klarén, Polestar's head of sustainability. Addressing a group of editors in New York City during Climate Week, Klarén detailed Polestar's future and addressed the million-dollar question of how this car will come to be.
Starting with the chassis, 97% recycled steel and zero-carbon aluminum will make up part of the frame construction in true Swedish fashion. This environmentally friendly raw material sourcing is joined by lithium-ion battery recycling, a necessity for the future of EV production. The company says it will fall in line with the European Union's battery recycling regulations, which are currently under review. While a number of policies are on the table, the likely outcomes include mandatory second-life readiness of newly introduced batteries and specified material recovery rates of up to 70% for lithium-ion batteries and up to 95% for the metals included. Klarén even hinted at reducing battery capacity in an effort to reduce weight and and the amount of development byproducts.
Altering the visuals of a car and pawning it off as an all-new model is a tried and true marketing methodology in the auto industry, a ploy Polestar says it will do away with entirely. Year-to-year changes will only be done if the enhancements demonstrably change the function of the car and are more sustainable than the previous model. For example, the 2023 Polestar 2 has dropped 1.3 tonnes from its original cradle-to-gate carbon emissions footprint of 26.2 tonnes thanks to re-sourced aluminum battery trays. Visually, the cars may look similar from year to year, though constructive changes will lurk underneath.
Klarén says the debate rages on inside the car as well, with a deep conversation surrounding upholstered materials versus leather splitting the design team. She isn't saying Polestar definitively will stop using leather, but that the design team is considering the material's environmental implications. Well-kept leather can easily outlast a traditional textile, and the use of leather is part of a separate environmental loop. Klarén also says proprietary synthetic materials can mimic the qualities of leather without the same environmental impacts. Other potential materials include a 3D knit made from recycled plastic bottles or even a lower-grade, eco-upholstery that can be replaced with each service cycle.
Polestar's vehicles are relatively expensive, but the products are also a luxury endeavor. The company wants to maintain this ethos, Klarén explained, but not at environmental cost. Traditional markers of luxury, such as woodgrain panels, won't be featured in Polestar models as the brand leans toward futuristic design and carbon neutrality.
Antithetical to the traditional automotive sales model, Klarén claims Polestar will encourage owners to hang onto their vehicles. While this will aid in reducing demand for new vehicles, the loss in profitability from consistent sales could be made up in the service intervals required to keep a BEV on the road long-term. At least that's what Polestar seems to be banking on.
As the automaker moves ahead with the Polestar 0, the developments coming out of Gothenburg could set the stage for the industry as a whole. As a fledgling company with grandiose climate goals and a relatively small unit output, the company sits on the edge of radicalism as compared to its competitors. The larger legacy manufacturers are simply not positioned to take the same stance as Polestar with such ambitious carbon-neutral goals. Even so, the targets and messages Polestar put forward will be disruptive, if they can truly be carried out.