Polestar this week unveiled its vision for the future: new technologies and next-generation vehicles that the Swedish electric vehicle company owned by China’s Geely Holdings hopes will boost sales and usher in an era of growth.
The inaugural Polestar Day event in Los Angeles, designed to convince investors and journalists of its potential for a profitable future, stood in stark contrast to its present. Just a day earlier, the company revised its outlook, lowered 2023 delivery targets, announced new investment from Volvo and Geely, and told the market it would raise another $1.3 billion in external financing in the form of debt. and will require equity capital until cash flows collapse even in 2025.
By drawing a line between the company’s financial reality and its product ambitions, the event itself becomes even more of a focus.
“Polestar Day obviously has a lot of meaning for us to actually represent and highlight this mix of innovation that is coming together,” Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar, told TechCrunch in an interview during the event.
And it was a mix: the company presented its entire future product range, including the Polestar 3, 4, 5, Polestar Precept, the Polestar Electric Roadster Concept and the Polestar Synergy. In addition, the company made a handful of announcements that at least nominally fleshed out its future vision, offering investors and journalists rides in the upcoming Polestar 3 and Polestar 4.
The focus on upcoming models, ultra-fast charging, the integration of automated driving sensors, future vehicle-to-grid technology and manufacturing announcements suggest that Polestar is pursuing a comprehensive approach to growth despite headwinds.
The headwind is considerable. Electric vehicle adoption has slowed, particularly in the luxury market. The electric vehicle industry has been further crippled by high interest rates, tariffs to move production to the United States, economic uncertainty in China and two wars around the world.
Polestar, a small maker of luxury and high-performance electric vehicles, is in a more difficult position – even with major investors like Volvo and Geely. The company only has one model, the Polestar 2, in the US market.
With global sales figures for 2023 recently revised downwards, all eyes are on the Polestar 3 and Polestar 4.
I’m betting on Polestar 3 and Polestar 4
“When we talk about what happens to this company in the next 18 months,” Ingenlath said, “these products come to market and at the same time we sat down and made sure that we do it in 2025,” a profitable one “Company whose cash flow reaches breakeven.”
U.S. deliveries of the Polestar 3 are scheduled to begin in early 2024 and the Polestar 4 will enter production soon, with delivery taking place in 2025.
Ingenlath says the company is betting on the Polestar 3 and Polestar 4 to reach its break-even targets by 2025.
“Polestar 3 and 4 are key factors; They are the core of the business,” he said, underscoring the company’s focus on price rather than volume.
First drives: Polestar 3 and Polestar 4
The company offered participants the opportunity to ride in pre-development versions of their upcoming Polestar 3 and Polestar 4 for short, 10-minute rides around Santa Monica Airport in stop-and-go traffic.
The Polestar 3 is the more “luxurious” and larger of the two vehicles, with an SUV-like roofline, plenty of rear seat space and a fully digital cockpit. It is also the first vehicle the company has built on an entirely new platform. From the back seat, the Polestar 3 is quiet, spacious and comfortable with plenty of leg and headroom. It features air suspension that provides enough ride to provide a connected feel without being too heavy, making it more nimble and lighter on its feet.
There’s a single vertical infotainment screen in the center of the dashboard and a driver information screen mounted on the steering wheel column. While you control most of the car’s functions (like one-pedal mode and various driving modes) via the main infotainment screen, the controls for the headlights and wipers are within easy reach on the stalk.
The Polestar 4 is the SUV coupe of the range with a curved roofline – believe it or not, no rear window. This unconventional omission allowed designers to provide rear passengers with more headroom and legroom, the company said. The Polestar 4 has a slightly shorter wheelbase than the 3, but from the rear passenger’s perspective it doesn’t feel claustrophobic – even without a rear window.
In the Polestar 4, the driver’s digital rearview mirror. The sunroof extends back just behind the rear passengers’ heads, so it doesn’t look like a coffin, even though there is no glass behind the seats. The ambient lighting around the interior makes the lack of a rear window almost invisible.
The Polestar 4 also has a large central infotainment screen, but it is oriented horizontally rather than vertically, and the driver’s information screen is mounted on the dashboard rather than the steering column. There is no HUD in the Polestar 4 and unlike the 3 it is equipped with a steel spring suspension. This configuration makes it feel rougher on roads with potholes and creates waves and violent movements for the rear seat passengers.
The technology and the ride-sharing experience weren’t the surprising thing. Rather, it was about how enthusiastic the customers who supported TechCrunch with the cars were about the future vehicles. A customer in Indiana told us that he ordered a Polestar 3 and was so impressed by the infotainment screen features while driving that he couldn’t keep his hands off it.
Future batteries, V2G and automated driving
Polestar also used its launch event to highlight technology partnerships with companies such as Luminar, Mobileye and StoreDot, a battery company that Polestar invested in last year.
Most of these technology partnerships, such as the relationship with lidar company Luminar, are not new; The companies announced a collaboration agreement in February this year and plans to integrate lidar alongside Mobileye Chauffeur technology were announced in August 2023.
Apparently it wasn’t about making new announcements, but rather about showing what capabilities these next-generation vehicles could have.
For example, the Polestar 4 will have lidar, which supports an advanced driver assistance system that enables automated driving on highways. However, this system is not yet fully developed.
During the presentation, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua, who was not present but pre-recorded his statements, showed a video of a Polestar 4 using Mobileye technology to navigate a roundabout. While the vehicle was able to successfully enter, merge and exit traffic without any intervention from the driver, it didn’t exactly go smoothly. The video showed the prototype vehicle stopping and starting as it entered the roundabout, similar to what an unsafe driver would do. During his recorded remarks, Shashua said the video was recorded just last week.
Perhaps one of the more interesting companies featured at the event was StoreDot, an Israel-based battery company that makes pouch cell batteries with so-called extremely fast charging, or XFC, capabilities.
Polestar first invested in StoreDot in May 2022 and is now aiming to integrate so-called “0-100 in 5 minutes” silicon anode battery technology into future electric vehicles.
StoreDot CEO and co-founder Doron Myersdorf was on hand at Thursday’s event, demonstrating a small model of XFC battery technology that charges some cells to 80% in just under eight minutes.
StoreDot developed the battery cells, while Polestar, a “key investor and collaborator,” worked with the company to develop the battery case and liquid cooling system that keeps the fast-charging cells below 40°C – a critical point for efficient charging. Myersdorf said the technology has been tested in 1,000 fast-charging cycles and there is no more battery degradation than slow charging.
“Slow charging and fast charging are the same thing for this technology,” Myersdorf said, “so you could basically get a half-million mile warranty” on the battery. He also found that after 1000 charges, the battery doesn’t just run out, but only charges to 80%. Polestar and StoreDot say they will fully demonstrate the jointly developed battery pack in a Polestar 5 prototype sometime in 2024.
Polestar also announced vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, plans in Sweden and California. The company has agreed to become part of a coalition of energy distributors and suppliers, home charging providers and university researchers for a pilot project using V2G technology and a fleet of Polestar 3s in and around Gotenberg, Sweden. In California, Polestar announced that it would participate in a preliminary study to create a roadmap for V2G technology in the state. The project in Sweden will run for two years and will begin in 2024. The preliminary study in California will begin in December and last one year.
It’s still early days for this type of technology, and there are still many hurdles to overcome – from legislative issues to infrastructure. However, if the V2G technology works as Polestar hopes, it would make Polestar’s new virtual power plant, or VPP, usable. Polestar said the cloud-based VPP system would allow Polestar3 owners to feed energy back into the grid when their vehicle is parked – whether at home or in public.
The way forward
As the electric mobility industry becomes increasingly scarce, smaller automakers like Polestar must act quickly to stay afloat.
Ingenlath says he is optimistic about Polestar’s future.
“We shouldn’t be too shocked about the electric vehicle market,” said Ingenlath, referring to the declining demand for electric vehicles. “I mean, the bottom line is, how prepared are you as a company to go through a valley like that?” he continued. “We will definitely survive.”