The Drive for Neutral
Electric vehicle maker Polestar is moving at top speed to meet one of the most ambitious goals in the automotive industry today: producing an electric car while eradicating all CO2 emissions from the vehicle's supply chain.
The climate-neutral car, called the Polestar 0, would be a world first and would rely on exponential technologies to design toward zero rather than offsetting emissions through tree planting. It is part of Polestar's larger goal of reaching complete climate neutrality by 2049.
"We didn't want to go down the route of being a company who just blurts out the targets, and then you don't see any follow up on that," said Fredrika Klarén, head of sustainability at Polestar, who is one of the driving forces behind the project. However, achieving this goal by the target date of 2030 is no sure thing.
"This is a moonshot goal in its truest definition," said Klarén. "The tens of thousands of components, which all have to have a zero-carbon footprint — batteries, the seat, the aluminum, the wheels, the tires — every screw of this car needs to be climate neutral."
Charting the Course to Neutral
The path for how Polestar will accomplish such a hefty task has yet to be carved. Instead, the company will build the roadmap as they go.
"We are big believers in exponential development at Polestar," said Klarén. "We don't think that the coming nine years will be a linear development, but rather it will increase at an exponential pace."
To manage the lengthy and complicated project, the team has developed a three-step plan:
Step 1: Just Do It
"We know that there are solutions out there that can be implemented today to get us a few steps on the way, like renewable energy sources," said Klarén. "We don't need innovation to find those. But how do you make a platform climate neutral with all of the components going in?"
Step 2: Advanced Engineering
"We need to do some engineering work internally and to explore how to engineer batteries or parts of the car in new ways where we don't have solutions today," he said.
Step 3: Research
"We're going to do a lot of research with external partners, institutes and other types of organizations that can be good partners in researching solutions," said Klarén.
The initiative will also rely on the efforts of the entire organization.
"It's not a separate sustainability project on the side where we have a team of sustainability experts running it," he said. "Rather, it taps into the fact that employees today want to contribute to sustainable development. If you are an engineer, salesperson, designer or a CEO, you just do things in a more sustainable way. Relying on a sustainable department to figure everything out on the side is not a successful way to go."
Finally, Polestar will also take lessons learned from other new development efforts as they move forward with this vehicle. The company has already been paving the way in sustainability manufacturing in China. The Polestar Production Centre in Chengdu is the only automobile plant in China to have earned gold status in the globally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.
The experience and knowledge the company has gained from developing these plants will be essential, according to Klarén. "We have seen that we are able to reach very important goals like renewable electricity, even in China," he said. "That only builds self-confidence when it comes to the manufacturing. We think we can reach climate neutrality through the experience that we have so far."
Bringing Others Along for the Ride
The team at Polestar knows that eradicating all emissions from the production process is a big job and they can't go it alone. To succeed, the company will need the help of its suppliers and stakeholders.
"They need to be joining us in this journey by transitioning into renewable energy and using innovative solutions to really make materials climate neutral," said Klarén. "It is a huge challenge because the industry is not very used to cooperating, being transparent and sharing with each other."
To help communicate their aims, Polestar plans to be open for conversation with their stakeholders and collaborators for any issue that might occur, according to Klarén.
"We will take it on by continuing to do what we have done so far, calling for increased transparency, showing that we are stepping up and being very clear about our targets."