Photo: The Polestar 2, a midsized all-electric vehicle currently available in markets including North America and Europe.
Supporters of electric vehicles (EVs) tout these cars’ climate-friendly credentials compared to conventional automobiles. And while the vast majority of metrics suggests that assumption to be true, there is no shortage of caveats. The extraction of raw materials necessary for EVs, such as lithium and cobalt, is an energy-intensive process, and critics of the industry point to numerous environmental and human rights problems. Questions about these vehicles’ carbon emissions, depending on whether they are recharged in communities that rely on coal versus cleaner sources of power, are also a point of discussion. Then we have to look at the overall sustainability of the cars’ materials — and of course what happens when EVs’ battery packs reach the end of their lifecycle.
Nevertheless, most experts on the subject agree that EVs are a far more efficient and responsible option — hence most of the world’s automakers, from GM to Jaguar, are committing to bold long-term electric car targets.
Nevertheless, one automaker says it will leave no stone unturned when it comes to the sustainability street cred of its EVs. Sweden-based Polestar, owned by Volvo Cars (and, by extension, Geely), recently announced its “moonshot” goal of a genuinely climate-neutral car by 2030.
How exactly that will happen is still under wraps. The brand’s cars are currently manufactured in China, which raises countless questions on its own. But Polestar has made its long-term goal clear: It estimates that the current 26 tons of carbon emitted to manufacture one Polestar 2 will incrementally decrease each year, reaching zero by decade’s end.
For that to happen, Polestar realizes it has to take a look at everything involved with manufacturing its EVs, whether it’s the aluminum, steel, battery components or the materials comprising the cars’ interiors.
And no, we’re not talking about planting trees or purchasing carbon credits in any form.
“Offsetting is a cop-out,” said Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath in a public statement. “By pushing ourselves to create a completely climate-neutral car, we are forced to reach beyond what is possible today. We will have to question everything, innovate and look to exponential technologies as we design towards zero.”
Polestar claims a climate action mindset is already integrated within the business, and the employee bonus structure at the automaker is designed in part to help meet its climate targets.
Much of this drive’s long-term success depends on transparency, as Polestar said it will start this process by disclosing its current cars’ carbon footprint and traced risk materials. The company will then post additional information on its website so stakeholders can monitor any progress.
Last week’s pledge is just another step in the company’s progression toward climate neutrality since its first EVs were announced back in 2017. Last year, Polestar announced it would start taking on more waste reduction efforts, which included tactics such as finding ways to reduce its EVs' overall weight as well as phasing out plastic or replacing it with plant-based materials.
Image credit: Polestar corporate site
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.