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Australia may still be trailing behind in terms of electric vehicle (EV) adoption, but the arrival of Sweden-based Polestar on local shores could drastically turn this scenario around. It’s well-timed, with 2023 looking set to be a record year for global EV adoption.
According to credit rating agency S&P Global, EV sales worldwide grew about 36 percent on the year in 2022 and, although a number of challenges are in play, EV market share for new vehicles looks on track to reach 40 percent by 2030.
Seeing the immense potential for the Australian EV sector, and for Polestar in particular, Samantha Johnson left her position with Volvo, also owned by Chinese automotive brand Geely, to join the company in October 2020.
“Polestar is an electric performance brand, very much centered around design, innovation and sustainability,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “It’s one of the few pure EV players in the market so we can put all of our efforts into bringing EVs to Australia without having any of the biases of protecting the fossil fuel vehicles. That’s really refreshing.”
“In the past, we haven’t really had a supportive government and we haven’t had a coordinated effort around how to bring sustainable vehicles to Australia.”
By its very nature, sustainability is at the company’s core. All suppliers and materials have to adhere to Polestar’s strict sustainability criteria as the company pursues its Project 0 commitment – producing a climate-neutral vehicle from ‘cradle to grave’ by 2030. “It’s very ambitious,” Johnson says.
“We’ve called out to experts globally to work with us on the Polestar 0 project, and we already have a number of key partners on-board. There’s still work to do to make sure we can achieve this goal, so we’re particularly interested in talking to partners specializing in raw materials, bio-based chemicals, polymers, and electric components,” Johnson reveals. “It’s real, we’re absolutely dedicated to bringing this car to life.”
The company is already making major strides. Polestar openly shares the methodology of a life cycle assessment report that shows its Polestar 2 vehicle is more sustainable than an equivalent petrol car, and has less than half the climate impact when charged with renewable energy. But with transport still generating close to 20 percent of emissions in the Australian market, Johnson knows it has more work to do to achieve its 2030 target.
Although Polestar only commenced sales in the local market in February 2022, it has already sold over 2,000 cars with a significant order bank in the pipeline.
Despite global growth of EV sales, Australia is still lagging far behind the rest of the world with adoption of these sustainable automotive technologies. As a percentage of new car sales in 2022, Norway’s EV adoption has reached 80 percent, the United Kingdom is at 14 percent, while Australia was just over three percent.
“It’s really not good enough,” Johnson insists. “In the past, we haven’t really had a supportive government and we haven’t had a coordinated effort around how to bring sustainable vehicles to Australia.”
To date, a “patchwork” of different incentives have been introduced by various states which has made it hard to achieve momentum. But a number of positive signs have Johnson feeling ever more optimistic that Polestar’s goal lies within reach.
“Polestar is an electric performance brand, very much centered around design, innovation and sustainability.”
For example, she describes the current government as “much more climate supportive”, with discussions ongoing on how to accelerate the growth of electric mobility via supply, infrastructure and demand policies.
Polestar is working closely with industry bodies and other stakeholders to call for the right focus and the right policies to be put in place. Johnson is also in constant communication with people within the industry, both locally and globally, at all levels of the supply chain – including all the way down to the mineral companies.
“We need to do more in every industry to make sure that we are really making the world and Australia more sustainable. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
“I’m telling everyone what we’re doing and trying to influence others to come on our journey,” she says. “We need to do more in every industry to make sure that we are making the world and Australia more sustainable. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
EV supply has also fallen somewhat short of demand, according to Johnson. “But as that supply does shore up, we not only need to drive the current level of demand, but we need to drive a higher level of demand to actually catch up to the United Kingdom and to Norway. It needs to happen at a faster rate.”
New products are in the making, with Polestar working hard to ensure each model and each model year is even more sustainable. The latest Polestar 2 model year update saw the reduction of 1.5 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per car thanks to a shift to low-carbon aluminum components, Johnson shares, with further reductions set to continue with each new model year.
When the Polestar 3 and 4 hit the market, they will take sustainability to a whole new level thanks to Polestar’s focus on utilizing the latest sustainable materials selected with circularity in mind, and the extension of its traceability program using Blockchain technology to ensure the ethical sourcing of minerals including cobalt, lithium and nickel.
“There’s a lot of design and engineering effort that goes into developing more sustainable products, but it’s a very strong focus for Polestar. It’s very real.”
“It’s a very exciting lineup over the coming years, and I just can’t wait for them to be coming to Australia.”
After attending last year’s Polestar 3 reveal, Johnson is looking forward to bringing the large performance SUV to Australia in the first quarter of 2024. “It has all the functionality and practicality of an SUV, but in a beautiful, sleek package that cements Polestar’s position as a sustainable, luxury brand,” she says.
She describes the Polestar 4 as a medium-sized SUV, to be followed by the Polestar 5 – originally the company’s ‘concept car for sustainability’. “It was our commitment car where we demonstrated how sustainable materials could be used in automotive applications and set the scene for our future products,” she explains.
“Then the Polestar 6 is an amazing hard top convertible roadster,” she reveals, “It’s a very exciting lineup over the coming years, and I just can’t wait for them to be coming to Australia.”
The vehicles themselves are not the only way Polestar is innovating in the space. Its unique retail model is also proving to be incredibly effective. By directly engaging with consumers via its online sales model, it provides a different car purchasing experience.
“We have a customer care center based here in Australia, so you can engage with them via web chat, email, or you can actually pick up the phone and talk to someone,” Johnson says. “They’ve had very good feedback so far on how they’ve been supportive with our customers.”
In addition, Polestar has ‘urban hubs’ around the country for those who want to see the cars or take them for a test drive. Last summer, it opened its first flagship showroom in Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne with a big focus on customer experience and helping people to understand the EV journey amid growing interest.
“It’s very different to the traditional dealership model.”
“They’re staffed by Polestar specialists, so they’ll tell you everything you need to know about the brand and about the vehicle, and help you on your EV journey,” she says. “But there are no hard sell tactics.
“You’re finding out everything that can help you make an informed decision, and then in your own time, at your own pace, you have the ability to purchase without any pressure. It’s very different to the traditional dealership model.”
With so much movement in this space, Polestar is positioning itself right at the center of EV innovation. “It’s very exciting to be part of this journey,” Johnson says.