‘Electric driving is the start,
not the end’
Swedish carmaker Polestar wants to create a climate-neutral car by 2030. It aims to do so without offsetting by tree planting. ‘We push ourselves to innovate.’
The major carmakers proudly announced during COP 26 in Glasgow that they would phase out fossil fuels between 2035 and 2040. Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Swedish electric carmaker Polestar, wasn’t impressed. ‘Considering the lifetime of a car, petrol and diesel cars will still be driving and polluting the second half of this century’, he commented at the climate summit. ‘This is the time for radical change.’
The goals of Polestar, established in 2017 by Volvo Cars and the Chinese Geely Holding Group, are much more ambitious. The company already produces two performance cars, a hybrid GT and an electric fastback, shortly to be followed by an electric SUV.
While governments and other manufacturers see electrification as the ideal solution for a climate-friendly car fleet, Polestar goes further. ‘Electric driving is the start, not the end’, says Lies Eeckman, managing director of Polestar Belgium. With the Polestar 0 project, the carmaker is laying down an unprecedented challenge to the car world. ‘Zero emissions in use isn’t enough. The entire development and production process, from suppliers to retailers, must be climate neutral.’
Electric cars may be cleaner to run, but it takes a lot of energy to manufacture them. Producing the battery in particular is harmful to the climate, as is mining the raw materials. Polestar aims to make the whole process climate neutral by 2030.
The company doesn’t intend to ‘cop out’ by offsetting the emissions. Experts do not believe this to be sustainable in the long term. ‘There are questions around the carbon storage capacity of forests and soil in the long term’, says Eeckman. ‘You can cut down a forest, a fire can destroy it and climate change can harm it.’
‘We question everything, innovate and actively seek out exponential technology as we design for totally climate neutral.’
That’s why the company pushes itself to innovate. ‘We need to question everything, innovate and look at exponential technology when designing for zero.’ Polestar’s ambition also makes its leasing offer more attractive for large companies, SMEs or sole traders wanting to reduce their footprint. Taxes are lower on electric cars and Polestar cars are tax deductible, as is electricity.
Polestar is open about its cars’ impact on the climate and calls on other manufacturers to follow its lead. ‘Transparency is a catalyst for sustainable mobility’, says Eeckman. The life cycle assessment reveals that the new Polestar 2 models leave the factory with a carbon footprint of between 24 and 25 tonne CO2 equivalents. This figure does not increase during use, if the car is charged with green energy.
Production of similar cars with a petrol engine involves lower emissions, but this is soon cancelled out during use. After 50,000 kilometres, a petrol-driven Volvo XC40 is less climate-friendly than an equivalent Polestar 2, the company calculated last year. The climate impact is less than half over the whole life cycle.
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