Brace yourself, Tesla. There's a new electric vehicle manufacturer in town. Owned by Volvo Car Group and Chinese auto giant Zhejiang Geely Holding, Polestar launched in 2017 with a plug-in hybrid called the Polestar 1, which boasts the longest electric range of any hybrid on the market. The all-electric Polestar 2 debuted last year, and the upstart automaker says it plans to launch a fully electric SUV in the near future.
Still, Sweden-based Polestar insists vehicle sustainability is about more than electric and hybrid powertrains. And it's touting a roster of other eco efforts — from vehicle light-weighting to phasing out plastic — as it jockeys for position among its biggest competitors.
In press materials circulated last week, Polestar outlined goals to reduce weight, eliminate plastic content and reduce waste material. And it says it's is looking toward innovative materials like Bcomp’s natural fibers made from flax to turn its goals to reality. Flax is an ideal material for fibers as it can be used in crop rotation programs and does not compete with food crops. Using Bcomp’s natural fibers equates to up to a 50 percent reduction in weight and an 80 percent reduction in plastic in Polestar vehicles.
The company also intends to use 3D-knit fabric for seats made from 100 percent recycled PET bottles, infuse interior plastics with waste cork, and use carpets made from recycled fishing nets. Both the fashion and active footwear industries already use fabrics knitted with a 3D printer. Using 3D printers to make seats results in waste being removed in the production process as the material is made to fit.
“It’s clear that to be truly sustainable, we have to evaluate every element that goes into our cars,” says Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath, in a statement. “For Polestar, sustainability is not just about the electric powertrain. With the development of these innovative new solutions that we will introduce in our future cars we make a strong statement of our intentions.”
Polestar is not the only electric vehicle manufacturer to incorporate sustainable materials. Fisker is billing its Fisker Ocean electric crossover as “the world's most sustainable vehicle.” The car, which will debut later this year, features vegan interior and materials made from recycled fishing nets and ocean plastics.
The all-electric Nissan Leaf includes a bevy of recycled materials: The seats are made from old PET soda bottles, the sound insulator pads beneath the hood are made from recycled fabrics, the center console is made from discarded electrical appliances, and the dash and parts of the door are made from recycled plastic resins. The automaker has also teased plans to recycle old vehicle batteries for street lighting in Japan.
The door trim panels and dashboard of BMW’s electric sedan, the BMW i3, are made from renewable and natural fibers. The textile upholsteries are made of recycled polyester. Panels on the door are made from renewable natural fibers, including open-poor eucalyptus certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. A total of 25 percent of the materials used to make the interior of the car are made from raw materials and recycled plastics. BMW goes a step further by using 25 percent recycled plastics to make the exterior.
Both Kia and Toyota use bio-plastics in their electric vehicles. Kia’s electric vehicle, the Kia Soul, uses bio-plastics made from cellulose and sugarcane. Organic materials are used in the car’s door panels, headliner, roof pillars, carpets and seat trim. The seat cushions of Toyota’s Prius also contains bio-plastics.
As for Polestar, based on the interest at various car shows, there is a strong possibility its all-electric vehicles could give major automakers a run for their money. And if it creates a race to the top around sustainable materials in the process, all the better.
Image courtesy of Polestar
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.