Polestar is landing in Australia. But what is Volvo’s new offshoot electric car brand and how is it different?
With order books now open for its debut vehicle, the Polestar 2 liftback crossover, it’ll directly compete with the Tesla Model 3 when it arrives from February 2022.
Here’s everything you need to know about Polestar.
What is Polestar?
Polestar is a Swedish car brand specialising in electric performance vehicles and manufacturers vehicles in China and (soon) the USA. It is a subsidiary of Volvo Cars, which is owned by the China-based Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.
Therefore, it has a strong focus on sustainability in the circular economy and shares technology and engineering with the Volvo Car Group at its headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden and R&D facility in the United Kingdom.
Polestar focuses on climate-neutrality, circularity, transparency and inclusion.
It aims to produce a climate neutral car by 2030 that has no environmental impact when it leaves the factory, exploring sustainable repairing, refurbishing and repurposing high-voltage batteries, and using blockchain technology to ensure the responsible sourcing of rare earth materials with transparent annual reviews and life cycle assessments of its vehicle carbon footprint.
Polestar will debut in Australia from February 2022 when its Polestar 2 performance liftback is officially handed to reserved customers.
Unlike most carmakers, the 2 in Australia has the same motor, battery and equipment options as with any other country.
The 2022 Polestar 2 starts from $59,900 before on-road costs and state or territory incentives for the base Standard Range Single Motor, and tops out at $69,900 before on-roads for the Long Range Dual Motor.
Three option packages will be offered – the Pilot safety pack ($5000), Plus premium pack ($6000), and Performance sports pack ($8000) exclusive on the flagship Long Range Dual Motor variant.
All exterior colours but ‘Void’ black costs an extra $1400, ventilated nappa brown leather seats with wood accents costs $6000, and a 20-inch alloy wheel can be opted for $1400.
Headline standard features include a 11.2-inch vertical touchscreen and digital instrument cluster running the Android Automotive operating system capable of over-the-air (OTA) updates (Apple CarPlay coming in 2022), Polestar Digital Key (mobile app), auto emergency braking, power tailgate, WeaveTech-accented steering wheel, and more.
While the Polestar 2 will be the headlining launch vehicle Down Under, it isn’t the first from the Swedish-Chinese brand.
The limited-run Polestar 1 briefly made an appearance in Europe and the USA as a sleek plug-in-hybrid performance coupe in 2017 based on the Volvo S90, but was retired in 2020 with only 1500 units produced in left-hand drive.
Where does Polestar come from?
While Polestar became a standalone brand in 2017, its roots harp back to 1996.
Volvo Cars, then, partnered with Flash Engineering to enter into The Scandinavian Touring Car Championship. On the back of successful wins and a new leader, the team was renamed to Polestar Racing in 2005.
The Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely) acquired Volvo Cars from Ford in 2010 for around US$1.4 billion (A$2 million), saving it from bankruptcy.
By 2013, Polestar Performance AB was formed to rival Mercedes-AMG and the BMW M division.
The limited-run Volvo S60 Polestar was the first road-going production car, with a signature Rebel Blue colour, an inline six-cylinder petrol engine (258kW/508Nm), Öhlins 2-way adjustable shock absorbers, and a raft of other hardware enhancements to the standard S60 sedan.
In 2014, Polestar expanded to more countries in the guise of updated Volvo S60 and V60s.
A modified S60 Polestar also competed in the Australian V8 Supercars Championship between 2014 to 2016.
Importantly in 2015, Volvo Cars purchased the performance division and subsequently continued in more vehicles, such as the next-gen S60, V60, and XC60 in 2019 under the blue ‘Polestar Engineered’ badge.
It also made its ‘Polestar Engineered Optimisation’ calibration available to current Volvo owners. The racing team was renamed to Cyan Racing with links to Geely brand Lynk & Co.
In 2017, Volvo announced Polestar would become its own brand making luxury electric performance cars, but would still share designs and technologies with Volvo Cars.
Thomas Ingenlath was poached from his role as the senior vice president design at Volvo Cars to head Polestar as CEO. Ingenlath has a focused automotive design background, with stints in Volkswagen Group Audi and Skoda brands.
By 2018, it was spun out independently and is half owned by Volvo Cars and half owned by Geely, the latter of which also owns British performance brand Lotus, subscription-focused Lynk & Co, the iconic ‘black cab’ London Electric Vehicle Company, among others.
This also meant a new logo; two wings placed diagonally towards each other is a symbol of the North Star that guides travellers on the Northern Hemisphere. This is a metaphor for the company acting as a “guiding star” for the Volvo Car Group.
Polestar currently produces the 2 in Volvo’s CMA Super Factory in Luqiao, Zhejiang, China alongside the Volvo XC40 with which it shares its platform with.
The Swedish-Chinese automaker also produced its limited Polestar 1 launch model in its Polestar Plant in Chengdu, China which will be used for other future models.
In 2022, the Polestar 3 electric SUV will debut; the company confirms it’ll be made in Ridgeville, South Carolina with a strong focus on the USA market, as well as being made in China.
Is Polestar just a Volvo?
While Polestar and Volvo do share architectures, parts and similar designs, the former is unique.
Polestar already makes fully-electric luxury cars with a performance focus, but Volvo Cars intends to produce an EV only range by 2030 while maintaining its traditional luxury and safety-conscious focus.
As the 2020 Polestar Precept concept reveals, it has its own identity with a slicker sloping design, distinct ‘guiding star’ daytime running lights (as opposed to Volvo’s Thor’s hammer), yellow-gold accents across brake callipers and seatbelts, emphasis on sustainable materials used in the interior, and own infotainment user interface skin on top of Android Automotive.
After all, Polestar is the forefront experimental brand that Volvo Cars takes inspiration from.
Pictured: Volvo C40 Recharge (left) and Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric (right)
Additionally, Polestar stresses fixed pricing and universal choices for all countries it sells in (same options, equipment and powertrains) unlike Volvo currently.
Polestar rivals performance-orientated EV brands like the disruptive Tesla EV firm and Volkswagen-owned Cupra carmaker. Ingenlath also says it’s competing with Porsche for “for the best electrically powered premium sports car”.
Model-wise, while the Polestar 2 liftback is based on the same CMA platform as the Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric SUV, the former is $7000 cheaper when comparing equivalent model specs.
The Polestar also has a unique interior design, vegan leather upholstery, different Android Automotive interface, and features an mobile app digital key.
How can I buy and service a Polestar?
Polestar will depend on fixed pricing and online ordering (via Polestar.com) like many other new car brands. The order books are now open for Australia.
At launch, the Polestar 2 is on a roving national roadshow test-drive program from November 2021 to February 2022 by setting up events in most capital cities.
Temporary pop-up stalls will also appear in ‘iconic locations’ like Bondi Beach (Sydney), Queensbridge Square (Melbourne), Pacific Fair (Gold Coast), and King George Square (Brisbane) with nearby test-drive facilities.
Meanwhile, permanent retail-like ‘Polestar Spaces’ will open up in key Australian capital cities from April 2022. That’s a similar approach to Genesis’ ‘Test Drive Centre’ showrooms and studios.
Polestar offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, eight-year/160,000km battery warranty, and 12-year corrosion warranty.
As at publication, all Polestar 2s will have free servicing and roadside assistance for five years. The new brand will use Volvo Cars’ existing servicing network to maintain all Polestars.
Furthermore, OTA updates have also fixed infotainment bugs, improved battery efficiency and range, added battery preconditioning for faster charging, optimised adaptive cruise control, introduced new apps, and more.
Pictured: 2020 Polestar Precept concept
What’s coming from Polestar?
Polestar is forging ahead with introducing three new models by 2024.
First off the list will be the Polestar 3 in 2022, a sleek performance SUV based on the underpinnings of the next-generation internal-combustion engine Volvo XC90.
It’ll be produced in the USA and China with a stronger focus on sustainability and autonomous highway driving capabilities using LiDAR sensors from Luminar and NVIDIA computing hardware.
Pictured: Polestar 3 teaser
Linked closely to the 3, the Polestar 4 will debut soon after as a coupe SUV version like the Volvo C40 is to the XC40.
Next will be the Polestar 5 in 2024. Based on the Precept concept, it’ll be an even sleeker and longer liftback than the 2, and is poised to be the company’s headlining grand tourer vehicle.
Polestar also plans to go public on the NASDAQ through a business combination agreement with Gores Guggenheim Inc for around $27 billion in value. Time will tell where it ranks amongst the several EV focused startups that went public in 2021.
Figures by Danny Thai
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