As construction starts in Chengdu, China of the new production center for Volvo's Polestar high-performance EV brand (see http://articles.sae.org/15714/), AE's European Editor Stuart Birch talked with company CEO Thomas Ingenlath. Previously Senior Vice President Design of Volvo Cars, he was described by the company as being the inspiration behind its design renaissance in recent years.
Ingenlath holds the dual-role of Chief Design Officer for the Volvo Car Group. He studied at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Germany and the Royal College of Art, London. From 1991 to 2006 he held senior design positions at Audi, Skoda and VW.
What were the three salient reasons for the creation of Polestar as Volvo Car Group’s standalone electric performance brand?
First, Polestar is an integral part of the electrification strategy of Volvo. It will spearhead the electrification with cars that are offered as BEVs only. Second, Polestar will add to the well-defined and positioned Volvo portfolio a brand that offers performance-oriented electric cars. And third, Polestar will use the well-established and experienced structures and resources of the Volvo Car Group to add value by creating the new and exciting brand Polestar
Why is your first car [Polestar 1 based on Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA)] to be a very powerful and, for many, financially unreachable “halo” hybrid model, rather than perhaps a more affordable BEV sports coupe or roadster?
Polestar 1 will indeed be a halo model for the Polestar brand, and sets the tone and future direction of the new electric performance brand. The statistics of an output of 600 hp (441 kW), delivering the longest range of any hybrid in the world, and with world-class chassis components from Öhlins (Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension) and Akebono (6-piston brake calipers), best demonstrate the attributes of the car and brand. That said, Polestar is very keen to see the democratization of performance electric cars and that’s why, at the launch of the Polestar 1, it was confirmed that Polestar 2 would be a higher volume, more accessible car in the competitor set of the Tesla Model 3 and feature a full electric powertrain.
Will the advanced technologies and weight saving techniques (in modified form, perhaps) used in Polestar 1, cascade into future models? And could you give examples (maybe next-generation composites but not carbon)?
It’s too early to go into material or construction details of future Polestar cars. However, one of the main roles that Polestar will play within the Volvo Car Group is as a technology spearhead, testing and experimenting with new products, services, materials and developments in lower-volume cars to see if there are applications for the higher-volume Volvo Car products. This is a significant benefit that Polestar brings to its parent company.
Tesla 3 has a maximum scheduled range of around 500 km and vigorous performance. Are you aiming to better this figure and if so, how—e.g. lower weight, significantly lower Cd figures, multi-ratio transmissions?
At the launch of the Polestar 1, we confirmed that Polestar 2 would be a car that competes in the competitive set of the Tesla Model 3. However, we also confirmed that the launch of the Polestar 2 would take place around the turn of the decade. It’s therefore too early to confirm the projected range and performance of the car, and how we might achieve those levels. That said, we wouldn’t be suggesting the Polestar 2 was in the competitive set of the Tesla Model 3 if we didn’t believe it wouldn’t be competitive with that car when it arrives!
Can you detail the synergies that higher volume Polestar models will share with Volvo cars?
We will share the new developed electric platforms within the Volvo Car Group.
Do you foresee Polestar helping Volvo achieve the truly premium level quality (Mercedes, BMW etc.) to which it aspires – or Volvo helping Polestar to that same target?
Volvo is already a truly premium level car manufacturer, and working in competition with those brands. Polestar is a subsidiary of Volvo Cars and adds a completely different brand dimension to the Volvo offer. Volvo has a very well respected and well-defined brand and product to offer but performance isn’t in its DNA. Polestar can add this dimension to the Volvo Car Group.
Are you confident that lithium-ion battery technology has the development potential to meet your needs in cost and energy density over the next decade? What alternative high energy density battery technology looks promising for the medium to long-term?
For products currently in our cycle plan and for the foreseeable future, lithium-ion batteries are the best match to our prerequisites. That said, together with Volvo, we are constantly exploring both established suppliers and start-ups to identify promising technologies and there are already many promising solutions identified. But there’s no point in taking specific battery technology decisions prematurely as most of these technologies are quite easily exchangeable within our new electric propulsion architecture.
Looking forward to the 2030s and beyond, do you envisage wireless dynamic charging (inductive charging) through the road surface bringing the eclipse of the huge, costly, heavy, life limited batteries now required to propel BEVs?
No, we don’t see this as a solution for passenger cars. This could possibly be interesting for public transportation or lorries with a predictable route, but would need to be balanced against the huge investments in infrastructure that would take time, and solutions that would probably differ from market to market. When the number of electric cars on the roads is of a sufficient volume to make dynamic charging worthy of investigation, we are confident that technology developments will have already solved the problems.