Volvo’s Polestar 1 is the car Tesla should be really worried about

While many are getting excited about taking delivery of their Tesla Model 3s, despite once again the company being nowhere near its projected production numbers, in Shanghai this week Volvo unveiled its new 600hp Polestar 1, set to roll off the production line in mid-2019.

What was clear from the launch was that these new cars, especially the pure electric brother of the 1, the Polestar 2 coming later in 2019, pose a major threat to Tesla’s share of the EV market. Indeed, Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath has stated publicly that the 2 is designed to go head-to-head with the California firm’s new Model 3.

Tesla should be worried, too. It may have had the jump on traditional car manufacturers with regards to commitment to battery technology over internal combustion engines (ICEs), but now those traditional manufacturers are finally getting their acts together with viable electric options such a Jaguar’s I-Pace (expected to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2018) and the updated, range-extended BMW i3.

The Polestar 1´s upper body is made of carbon fibre for stiffness, torsional rigidity and weight saving.

So far, Tesla has seemed unconcerned with these electrified offerings from the old OEMs, as if they are still dipping their toes in the water, but Volvo is serious. It announced in July its intention to electrify all its powertrains by 2019, and these two new Polestars are a taste of things to come from the company – and a very enticing one it is, too.

Polestar is Volvo’s standalone premium electric-vehicle arm, and Volvo’s Chinese owner, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, has pledged to invest $755 million to develop the company. The Polestar models will be built at its new plant in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, which already has a Volvo factory.

“We want to be leaders in electrification,” Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said at the launch event. But this isn’t why Tesla should be taking note. Many car companies would trot out the same statement. The difference here is that Volvo is known for the reliability and build quality of its cars. The same cannot be said of Tesla, which has been dogged with production issues.

In October 2015 Consumer Reports stated that “Tesla’s reliability doesn’t match its high performance” citing problems with drivetrains, power and charging equipment, dashboard touchscreens, plus various noises, rattles and leaks.

My favourite Tesla story has to be how the company allegedly forgot to make floor mats for its first car. This highlights Tesla’s biggest problem: it may be superb at battery tech, but it hasn’t got 100 years of car making experience behind it. And that’s why you forget to think about the floor mats, or making sure the cabin doesn’t leak.

With the Polestar 1, and in particular the 2, we will get an electric car that will hopefully not only rival Tesla for battery tech and performance, but – crucially – will be put together in the right way. You know, the way that gives you confidence when driving into a monsoon or taking a sharp corner on a mountain pass. What’s more, it looks a darn sight more attractive than Tesla’s efforts, which resemble the kind of vehicle normally penned by children dreaming of becoming car designers (again, evident lack of experience).

Despite being well made, the 2+2 seat grand tourer coupé Polestar 1 will be fast. The electric performance hybrid generates an impressive 600hp and 1,000Nm of torque through its powertrain, and has an estimated range of 93 miles on a charge (that doesn´t sound much but is the longest range of any hybrid on the market). Moreover, the entirety of the Polestar 1´s upper body is made of carbon fibre for stiffness, torsional rigidity and weight savings. This all bodes well for good handling, too. Other flourishes include a rear spoiler which deploys at speeds over 60mph, a panoramic glass roof, leather seats and an audiophile-grade Bower & Wilkins sound system.

Despite this first effort being a gasoline hybrid, all future cars from Polestar will be on a fully electric powertrain. The Polestar 2 will be mid-sized competing with the Tesla Model 3 and the like. This will then be followed by a larger SUV-style EV, the Polestar 3.

The hybrid powertrain on the Polestar 1. Future models will be entirely electric powered.

Not content with fully embracing electrification, Polestar wants to change they way we all buy our motors by selling its cars differently – mimicking how we now buy our mobile phones, in fact, through subscription plans with monthly payments and no upfront fee.

Cars will be ordered and specced entirely online (though there will be showrooms to go see the product before you commit), subscriptions will have add-on features such as pick-up and delivery servicing and the ability to rent alternative vehicles within the Volvo and Polestar range. And to further an intended “hassle-free experience”, Polestar cars will have “Phone-As-Key” technology. Your mobile will be all you need to unlock the car, which is handy but will also allow the owner to share a virtual key with a third party. Sending your car keys to a friend who wants to borrow your motor, from wherever you are in the world, is a great idea, and bests current options which mostly use plastic cards so still require the driver to carry a physical “key” of some sort.

This all builds to a compelling case for Volvo and Polestar, one where the company is not only talking about electrification and changing the motoring landscape, but is actively engaged in doing so, creating entirely new ownership models, calling time on antiquated ICE powertrains and refusing to let Tesla corner the EV market. This is definite progress, and the other OEMs should not only be applauding Volvo, they should be making sure they aren’t left behind.

Source: Wired