'A moonshot goal': Polestar aims to develop offset-free, climate-neutral car
Swedish electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Polestar has unveiled an ambitious new intention to create the first "truly" carbon-neutral car by 2030, by reducing emissions across the value chain and without relying on offsetting.
Polestar, founded by Volvo Cars and Geely Holding in 2017, is aiming to create what it claims would be the world’s first truly carbon-neutral car, by analysing the lifetime carbon footprint of its existing vehicles to identify carbon reductions across the entire value chain.
The EV manufacturer has already provided a labelling system to outline the lifetime carbon footprint of its new vehicles, such as the Polestar 2, and believes that a “Polestar 0” project will be able to reduce emissions without relying on tree planting and other carbon offsetting measures.
“Offsetting is a cop-out,” the company’s chief executive Thomas Ingenlath said. “By pushing ourselves to create a completely climate-neutral car, we are forced to reach beyond what is possible today. We will have to question everything, innovate and look to exponential technologies as we design towards zero.”
The global market for voluntary offsetting has been growing exponentially for more than a decade. Just 8.8 million tonnes of CO2e were covered in 2006 but, by 2017, the figure stood at 62.7 million tonnes.
Carbon credits are typically used to fund projects that either sequester carbon, like reforestation and peatland restoration, or prevent emissions in the first place, like schemes incentivising clean cooking fuels. The idea is that, if an organisation can reduce emissions elsewhere to compensate for those it is unable to reduce in its operations or value chain, it can still claim to be aligning with climate targets.
While many offsetting projects are credible and businesses often see no other path to net-zero, offsetting has proven to be one of the most controversial topics in the climate debate. Corporates have been accused of greenwashing after investing in non-verified credits or of failing to prioritise in-house emissions reductions.
Double-counting is a recurring concern. And some carbon credit issuers claim that avoiding practices that humanity has known are climate-wrecking for decades, including flaring at fossil fuel sites, should be counted.
Polestar’s head of sustainability, Fredrika Klarén, added: “We’re electric, so we don’t have to worry about combustion engines producing toxic emissions – but that doesn’t mean our job is done. We will now work to eradicate all emissions stemming from production. Now is a historic and exciting time for car makers, an opportunity to seize the moment, do better and dare to build the dream of climate-neutral, circular and beautiful cars.”
Carbon labelling and the full methodology behind lifetime carbon measurements will appear on the company’s website to enable full transparency. Full details of how decarbonisation will be achieved across the entire value chain are yet to be revealed.