Polestars calls for collaboration on climate goals

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Polestar’s sustainability boss says it is “annoying” that there has been little teamwork with other OEMs on climate.

Polestar’s sustainability chief has called for greater collaboration within the automotive industry in order to accelerate carbon reduction efforts within the sector.

The Sino-Swedish electric vehicle manufacturer has pushed a range of sustainability initiatives, including a commitment to publishing a full life-cycle carbon assessment report for every model, and the Polestar 0 project to develop and launch a ‘truly’ net-zero production model by 2030.

Polestar is collaborating with a number of companies in a range of other sectors on the 0 project, but Fredrika Klarén, the firm’s head of sustainability, has admitted it is “annoying” that there has so far been little collaboration with other OEMs.

“What we’re trying to achieve is bigger than Polestar,” said Klarén. “We see many OEMs doing amazing things, we know that all car companies are doing a lot of sustainability work. But we are in a very traditional system, so it’s hard for us to talk to each other and collaborate.”

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Klarén noted there were “good reasons” for this lack of collaboration, including anti-competition regulations. But she added: “In the new era, we need to behave like other industries such as fashion, and really team up to combat the immense challenges we share. It’s a bit annoying that we are stuck in this old system, and we are still trying to figure out how to get out of it.

“That’s partly why we started the Polestar 0 project. We’re really inviting others to participate in this project, and we’re seeing amazing interest in [participating in] it from other industries.”

With the Polestar 0, the firm is working with other companies in a range of areas such as material development, industrial systems and processes and supply chains. The hope is that work on that project will feed into gradually reducing the emissions of current and future vehicles.

Collaboration with other OEMs could include developing an upholstery leather-replacement fabric that can be produced at scale and does not use PVC, and another key area would be in developing systems and standards to measure efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Shortly after the launch of the Polestar 2, the firm published a life-cycle carbon analysis for it, detailing the emissions created in its production, use and likely recycling, and has committed to doing the same with the new Polestar 3 SUV. Company boss Thomas Ingenlath said that move was in part to help spark discussion to agree a standardised industry norm for measuring life-cycle CO2 emissions.

But Ingenlath said: “There’s been very feedback and very little initiative [from other OEMs] to jointly agree a standard. That’s a frustration. Come on – time is running away and we’ll be missing a hell of a lot if we do not agree on a standard.”

Klarén joined Polestar in 2020, having previously worked in the furniture and fashion industries. She admitted that it’s been “really hard to get a handle” on sustainability efforts in automotive, “because in terms of transparency the car industry is lagging behind”.

She added: “Through the Fashion Revolution campaign, you can go on the website of, say, H&M and see a list of all their suppliers and sub-suppliers. That’s amazing.

“Automakers are doing amazing things, but they’re not sharing it. What we’re trying to do is show transparency, and hope that others will feel comfortable to do the same. It’s when we start charging what we do that we can really start collaborating and having an impact.”

Despite Polestar’s push for sustainability, the firm has no plans to establish its own battery recycling programme, confirmed Ingenlath, as it will instead focus on the recyclability of its cars.

A number of car manufacturers have established their own battery recycling programmes in a bid to ensure ‘closed-loop’ supply chains. But Ingenlath said “the business of recycling is something I don’t think we have to get into”, with the firm instead establishing a number of partnerships to repair and recycle batteries.

He added: “Our job is to engineer and design cars so they are able to be recycled in a way that keeps the value of their materials, and enables really meaningful recycling.”

Klarén said that a key focus was ensuring that future models were designed and engineered in a way that materials could be extracted at maximum value.

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