For a relatively unknown EV startup, we’re suddenly hearing a lot about Polestar. It helps that it has a new model coming, as it highlighted in its first-ever Super Bowl ad, while also offering us a hint of what’s coming in 2024.
The Swedish-based, Chinese-owned automaker plans to launch an all-new four-door coupe, dubbed the Polestar 5, as its flagship. And it will use a new bonded aluminum platform meant to help offset the hefty mass of its long-range battery pack.
Curbing mass is a major challenge in the EV world, packs often adding 1,000 pounds or more to a vehicle’s weight. That impacts range, performance, handling and safety.
“We knew we wanted this car to be lightweight, we knew we wanted high quality and we knew we wanted it quickly,” said Pete Allen, head of Polestar UK R&D. “This architecture delivers outstanding dynamic and safety attributes, with low investment technology applicable to high production volumes.”
A peculiar history
Polestar has a peculiar history. It started out as an independent tuner company and race team. It was acquired by Volvo which used the Polestar name much like BMW’s M and Mercedes’ AMG, to designate its highest-performance models. Polestar was more recently spun off by Volvo parent Geely and transformed into a standalone battery-electric vehicle brand.
It debuted with a limited-run, high-performance plug-in hybrid, the Polestar 1. It currently subsists on its first all-electric offering, the Polestar 2 SUV. The Polestar 3 crossover will join the line-up late this year and is expected to carry a sticker price in the $75,000 range. It will be followed in 2023 by the Polestar 4, a coupe-like BEV expected to take on the likes of the upcoming Porsche Macan EV.
Polestar 5 will become the new brand flagship and, like the original Polestar 1, swing back to a high-performance passenger car design, in this case an elegantly sleek coupe-like four-door that picks up on the design of the Precept concept vehicle first unveiled in 2020.
At the time, CEO Thomas Ingenlath explained that “Precept shows you where we will be heading — our design direction, our ambitions about sustainability and the great digital user experience we will bring with those future cars. Precept showcases our future, not as a fancy dream or something out of a sci-fi movie. This is our reality, to come.”
An emphasis on sustainability
Like the concept, the Polestar 5 is expected to put an emphasis on sustainability, starting with the extensive use of recycled plastics and other materials for the cabin.
Now, the company has announced, it also will take steps to improve both the flagship model’s performance and energy efficiency by shifting to an all-new, ultralight aluminum platform.
It was developed by the automaker’s R&D team in Coventry, England, which is “one of Polestar’s greatest assets,” proclaimed Ingenlath. “Their mix of engineering and technological expertise enables us to develop advanced, light-weight sports car technology with a creative mindset and a spirit that embraces innovative engineering. This will set Polestar apart in the years to come.”
The R&D team is expected to double in size this year, to about 500 engineers and support staff, as Polestar ramps up its product development program.
Other ways to shave weight
The automaker isn’t revealing many details about Polestar 5, starting with how much the new platform weighs and how that would compare with a conventional EV platform. There are plenty of other ways to save mass, however, that the company could turn to.
Today’s EVs generally rely on an inefficient packaging approach that means their batteries actually make up only about a third of the total mass of a pack. The layout makes it easier to remove and replace faulty battery cells. But as reliability rapidly improves, an alternative approach is being developed, according to Sam Abuelsamid, that could squeeze more batteries into a smaller, lighter pack. That could make batteries 80% of a pack’s total mass, according to the principal analyst for Guidehouse Insights.
Automakers like Polestar have been looking at new climate control technology and other ways to shave weight from today’s EVs. That could help them boost range without having to add more batteries.