Although Polestar isn’t the most popular electric vehicle manufacturer, they most definitely have some of the loftiest goals.
Electric vehicles are here to stay, with many estimates projecting them to overtake internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2040.
Still, selling new cars isn’t the only reason that EV makers are switching. The primary selling point of EVs is their sustainability. Many companies are racing to produce the most EVs the fastest, while one company is taking a different approach.
Let’s explore Polestar and their goal to make carbon-neutral cars by 2030. Their approach may just be what sets them apart.
What is Polestar?
Polestar is an electric vehicle manufacturer based out of Gothenburg, Sweden. Historically, Polestar was the racing division founded by Volvo and their partner, Flash/Polestar Racing.
Although initially founded in 1996 as a racing company, Volvo fully acquired them in 2015 and started their transition into the car company we now know today.
After a limited release of the hybrid Polestar 1, the company began producing their fast-selling and fully electric Polestar 2, with more models on the way.
Since their acquisition, Polestar has taken a different approach to the EV craze than any other company, likely due to their tight relationship with their parent company, Volvo.
Polestar makes high-quality vehicles but their goal is to be the new, green face of the modern car world. Although many car companies are trying to jump on the “green marketing train,” Polestar seems to be taking their claims a bit more seriously. In fact, they have set some rather aggressive goals for the next decade.
The company plans to create a climate-neutral car by 2030 and become a climate-neutral company by 2040. Lofty goals? Maybe. But they sure do have a plan.
The Polestar 0 project
At the heart of Polestar’s claims is the Polestar 0 project.
Project 0 will be a totally carbon-neutral car, and the company hopes to have it ready by 2030. What makes this project different than any other car company, however, is that they aren’t being deceitful about it.
“Carbon-neutral” is a term that is regularly thrown about, especially in new-age green marketing. On the surface, this is a great goal to have for anything but, like many things, the waters have been muddied.
Many organizations that claim to have “carbon-neutral” products aren’t clear about how they reach that carbon neutrality. In fact, most companies are simply paying for trees to be planted and counting each tree as a canceling unit against whatever product is being marketed. Need to call this shipment of new shoes carbon neutral? Simply pay a forestry company a few thousand dollars to scatter seeds on some vacant land. You can now market those shoes as carbon neutral—convenient, isn’t it?
What makes the Polestar 0 project different is that they aren’t trying to simply “offset” their carbon emissions when manufacturing a car; They are seeking to completely eliminate them.
As they state on the Project 0 website:
“Our goal is challenging but important: creating a truly climate-neutral car by 2030, without relying on low-carbon solutions or misleading offsetting schemes. Instead, our aim is to eliminate all emissions from raw material extraction, material manufacture, product manufacture, and end of life.”Polestar – Project 0
How Does Polestar 0 Plan to Be Carbon-Neutral (Without Any Offsetting)
Understanding the monumental challenge that Polestar has undertaken shows just how far they are willing to go.
Instead of settling to simply ‘offset’ their carbon, they plan to not create any in the first place. As such, they are actively seeking partnerships with anyone who can create (or has created) innovative solutions to the emissions problems that plague car manufacturing.
One of the first elements that the company is tackling is its steel production. Project 0 has partnered with Nordic Steel and SSAB (a steel company) in the hopes of exploring fossil-free steel alternatives.
Additionally, the company has begun working with Hydro as a partner for zero-carbon aluminum. ZF, an automotive parts supplier, is leading the charge on zero-emission powertrain construction, while Autoliv is researching seatbelts and airbags. ZKW, a lighting company, is researching the use of bio-based materials for headlamps and specially printed circuit boards and components for all electronics. As you can imagine, this is just the start. Check out all the current partnerships here.
“SSAB, Hydro, ZF, ZKW and Autoliv have already signed Letters of Intent to collaborate on research and provide understanding and insight into key areas like steel, aluminium, electronics, safety and electric drive.”Polestar – Project 0
The Polestar 0 project will utilize an entirely new supply line with partners who are equally dedicated to the project, plus require innovation for elements for zero-emission options not yet discovered. Creating a carbon-neutral car will require the entire supply chain to be totally revolutionized.
Is Polestar a Sustainable Company?
As it stands, Polestar isn’t a totally carbon-neutral company, but that isn’t something to be too worried about right now. Their goal to become totally carbon-neutral is set at 2040, ten years after the release of the Polestar 0.
As we all know, changing large, established systems takes a lot of time. Currently, the worldwide supply chain and electric grid have quite a bit of inertia, with most suppliers not caring very much about a carbon footprint or sustainability.
Although Polestar isn’t totally carbon-neutral, they have already started to turn their ship, despite the world still chugging along. Their primary method for this is by way of innovative products and partnerships with suppliers who share their vision.
Even still, a completely carbon-neutral Polestar 0 wouldn’t be emissions-free when you drive it home. This is due to the current state of the grid. Although an electric car is green, it can only be as green as the power source that it’s charged by. The end product of burning coal versus a solar farm is still electricity, but the latter is clearly more sustainable. In the case of charging a car, the same applies.
The next step after creating a carbon-neutral car is to create a carbon-neutral grid. Check out Polestar’s graphs on carbon emissions using various sources here.
Is Polestar’s Goal Possible?
Polestar’s goal is most definitely possible, even if they are a bit tenacious with their timeline. As noble as flipping a supply chain on its head in search of a carbon-neutral car is, there are just some things that we don’t have answers for yet.
One of the biggest problems, for example, is cobalt mining. Cobalt mining is extremely unsustainable, but the mineral is essential in almost all batteries, including the ones in most EVs. The only options would be to revolutionize cobalt mining practices in low-income countries or to develop new battery ideas to replace it. New battery tech is most definitely on the way (take solid-state batteries, for example), but 2030 may be a bit ambitious for this type of battery to be production-ready.
Still, what is a noble goal without a challenge?
“We’ll have to rethink almost everything we already know about making cars. From innovative design, to circular batteries. From recycled materials to renewable energy throughout the supply chain. The results of this mission will not only benefit the Polestar 0 project, but help contribute to other aspects of society.”Polestar – Sustainability