Mar 30, 2023
Polestar Is Trying to Catch Tesla, While Also Cutting Its Carbon
(Bloomberg) -- Polestar Automotive Holding UK Plc, one of the newer rivals to Elon Musk’s Tesla, had a tough and incongruous goal last year: nearly double production of its EVs, while simultaneously reducing emissions generated by the crafting of each one.
The Sweden-based startup checked the first box a few weeks ago, announcing that last year it stamped out 50,600 of its seminal electric sedan, the Polestar 2. Today, after months of crunching the numbers, the company said it accomplished its green goal as well, reporting an 8% decline in emissions per vehicle. The carbon coup bestows modest environmental bragging rights in an auto industry that is both committed to electric vehicles and financing its transition to the cleaner technology with a parade of more profitable gasoline-powered machines.
“I really think the industry has not understood what a challenge there will be in the next decade,” Polestar Chief Executive Officer Thomas Ingenlath said in an interview with Bloomberg Green on Tuesday. “Switching to electric mobility, in review, will look like peanuts because it’s actually doable and we know how to do it. How to reduce the CO2 footprint of our vehicles is much more of a challenge.”
All told, Polestar said it was responsible for the CO2 equivalent of 1.9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2022 , a 67% increase over the year before. However, it made nearly twice as many vehicles last year. Some 37.1 tons of greenhouse gas went into each car — the rough emissions equivalent of driving a standard gasoline-burning vehicle for about eight years — and down slightly from 40.2 tons in 2021.
Polestar is more rigorous than most of the auto industry in its carbon accounting, in part because it can be. In its five years, the company has only made about as many cars as Ford Motor sells in the US every month. What’s more, Polestar has been able to consider its carbon impact from the outset, while it establishes the pipelines of parts and pieces needed to make its machines.
“This is something that we do that’s not just a stunt for PR,” Ingenlath said of his company’s approach sustainability metrics. “It’s absolutely important for the trustworthiness and authenticity of our brand.”
The sustainability audit provides a helpful road map for cleaning up a car’s carbon footprint. For example, the majority of Polestar emissions don’t come from its factories; rather, nearly two-thirds lie upstream, in the supply chain that feeds those factories, including the heavy machinery used to mine precious metals for batteries and the plants processing that material.
Among other carbon-reducing initiatives, Polestar was able to begin powering its factory in China exclusively with renewable energy in 2022, and sourced more aluminum from a smelting plant running off of hydroelectric power. It also benefited from the greening of the grid at large, as more Polestar drivers topped up on electricity from windmills and solar panels.
Founded in 2017 by Volvo Car AB and China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Polestar won’t see its emissions journey get easier from here. The company aims to increase production by another 58% this year — to about 80,000 cars — as it starts bolting together its third vehicle, a mid-sized SUV dubbed simply “3.” The company is also looking to halve its relative emissions by 2030, while swiping a chunk of the auto market from Tesla and others.
To that end, Polestar plans to have three more EVs on sale by 2025. In addition to the swanky SUV that it just started taking orders for, the company will unveil a smaller, cheaper SUV in China next month and is drawing up plans for a larger, more opulent sedan to hit the market next year.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.