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Polestar’s Latest LCA Report Shows New Potential for EV Industry Transparency

The Swedish EV maker finds vast differences in CO2e throughout the life of its vehicles, depending on the source of the charging energy.

While Swedish electric vehicle maker Polestar isn’t anywhere near the top of the chain in terms of sales volume, the Chinese-owned Volvo subsidiary is among the leaders — if not taking the lead — when it comes to industry transparency.

The latest evidence comes in the form of the company’s updated Lifecycle Assessments (LCA) for the Polestar 2 — the company’s flagship sedan. The report shows the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions/footprint for each aspect of the Chinese-produced Polestar 2, along with a traditional, gas-powered Volvo XC40. The new LCA also details how those footprints change when the Polestar 2 is charged through renewable sources.

“How you charge a car has a massive impact,” says Polestar Head of Brand Partnerships and Culture Magnus Brodd told Sustainable Brands™.

He concedes that outside of Sweden, it’s largely impossible to track where electricity comes from at public charging stations; and that’s a big problem when it comes to reducing the overall impact of an EV. In the US, especially, there is almost no traceability. Brodd added:

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“Looking at this situation from a brand perspective, we think consumers have a right to know and make educated, informed decisions. There’s been a lack of transparency in the car industry; and someone needs to be ruthlessly transparent.”

As with most consumer-product industries, car buyers are asking for more transparency and clearer sourcing from the brands they support. However, it remains to be seen if a factory report showing the significant emission reductions between the “global electricity mix” and, for example, wind power will sway buyers towards Polestar.

It is part of the company’s broader effort to release a completely carbon-neutral car by 2030 with “true neutrality” (which means no offsets and a full transition to renewable energy across all aspects of manufacturing, according to Brodd), with a longer-term goal to be completely carbon neutral across all operations by 2040.

“The pandemic increased the sense of urgency and put everything into perspective,” Ellen Broomé, Manager of Polestar’s Global PR and Communications, told SB. “We’re not moving fast enough as an industry and need to set moonshot goals.”

Moonshot goals” are likely necessary to combat the auto industry’s contributions to global climate change but are considerably lofty, as few automakers are anywhere close to Polestar’s external transparency. Hardly any companies share the impact of their manufacturing, let alone use cases on the total life cycle of a vehicle. While other industries (apparel, for example) are on board with this thinking, the auto industry largely isn’t.

Beyond that, Polestar is very new as a solo endeavor — spun off as a standalone brand in 2017 under the Geely group of companies, but still “strategically partnered with Volvo Cars.” Sales numbers are exceedingly low compared to Tesla (reported sales are under 1,000 units compared to Tesla’s six-figure totals), the EV darling of the US.

Getting more consumers to care about the footprint of their vehicles requires actually getting a certain percentage of those consumers into the Polestar 1, 2 or the brand’s forthcoming “3” SUV to help deliver that message.

Fortunately, Polestar has a slate of compelling current and future vehicles; and the brand should have a broader platform as it continues to scale up production.

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