The Polestar 2 Debuts: It's a Car Made to Compete With Tesla
Polestar is taking on Tesla. The brand, jointly owned between Volvo Car Group and Zhejiang Geely Holding, unveiled its first all-electric vehicle on Wednesday. Polestar 2 claims to be “the first electric car to compete in the marketplace around” the entry-level Tesla Model 3.
“The buzz around the Tesla Model 3 showed where electromobility is relevant for society today,” Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar, said during the company’s unveiling. “With Polestar 2, we bring an exciting premium electric car that will broaden the choice and offer in exactly this segment.”
The Polestar 2 seems to check all the boxes to give Elon Musk’s car a run for its money. Both vehicles offer around 310 miles of range, regular software updates, a large central touchscreen, and obstacle detection systems. It also competes well on price, at $63,000 in the United States for the launch edition, similar to the $60,900 price of the Model 3 Performance edition. Competing in this area makes sense, as the Model 3 has dominated American sedan sales and is set to expand outside of North America.
Polestar 2’s long-range 78 kilowatt-hours battery is comprised of 324 cells condensed into 27 modules coupled with cooling plates, protected in an enclosure with an aluminum base and steel lid. The enclosure is attached to the body on its base to improve the car’s stiffness, also creating a low center of gravity. Stiffness is 35 percent higher than a regular vehicle thanks to the battery enclosure. The car targets 310 miles of range according to the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure and 275 miles of range based on the United States’ EPA ratings (the Model 3 is advertised as offering 310 miles of range, but the EPA rated it for 334 miles).
The car uses two motors in the front and rear offering 150 kilowatts and 330 Newton-meters, creating a total of 300 kilowatts power 408 horsepower and 660 newton-meters.
The battery acts as an anchor of relevant frequencies, which means it can help reduce noise. Ingelath demonstrated this by playing the sound of a conventional car that makes 74.3 decibels of noise, before playing against the sound 3.7 decibels lower.
The LED headlights use 84 LED pixels lined up in three rows. They project the beam with higher precision, while also recognizing up to five cars in oncoming traffic and cutting the light beam around oncoming cars. It enables users to keep the headlights permanently in high beam mode without worrying about oncoming drivers.
Pilot assist system radar and forward-looking camera offer safer driving. It’s permanently activated looking out for obstacles. It is unclear how this system will compare to rival systems like Tesla Autopilot, which can drive down highways and turn off at the correct exit at a “level two” degree of autonomy. Telsa claims its system will one day support full autonomous driving.
The side mirror, mandated by regulators but a pain for aerodynamics engineers, has been re-engineered. Instead of adjusting the glass by tilting the whole mirror, the car tilts the glass independently to enable a reduced bezel design. This reduces the volume of the mirror by 30 percent.
The Polestar 2 uses Bluetooth on the smartphone to unlock the door when the user grabs the handle, similar to the Model 3. As Bluetooth has a range of six to seven meters, the team uses four extra antennas in every corner of the car to increase the precision to less than two meters. This reduces the chance of the car unlocking when the driver is away from the car. The start button is embedded into the driver’s seat, meaning that as soon as the car is on the phone, the car will be ready to go. There is no key to turn or button to press.
When driving, essential information is displayed on the screen. Navigation takes the full width of the screen during GPS. An 11-inch touchscreen in the center, mounted in portrait mode, offers access to information and entertainment. The system uses Android to provide access to the Google Play Store and voice-activated Google Assistant — although Ingelath does promise integration with the iPhone. Apps are downloaded into one of four easily-accessible tile slots. While the Model 3 has a 15-inch central touchscreen, it also has no instrument cluster and uses Tesla’s in-house software system.
Updates will become available on a regular basis, downloadable through the car’s internet connection. Polestar previously demonstrated the screen’s user interface through a web app released last month. Ingelath demonstrated the voice assistant by asking “show me the nearest charging points,” immediately calling up places in the local area.
The car’s interior leverages talents “from the masters of avant-garde interior design,” using Scandinavian design and minimalism. Ingelath declared it “the best-designed electric car, period.” The car uses a vegan leather interior, standard across the range, as part of its environmental credentials. A sporty material called “weave tech,” 30 percent lighter than leather, saves 8.8 pounds of weight compared to a leather-equipped car. An alternative interior dubbed “textile” saves 17.6 pounds compared to a leather car. A third option, “3D Etched,” offers a polycarbonate decor. Black ash wood accents are aimed at reducing car scrap by finishing the interior without more metal.
Spock, a little yellow block the team named after the Star Trek character, prevents damage to the battery pack and injuries to the passengers by guiding the car away from side collisions. The vehicle is designed to reach the top scores from rating institutes. Up to nine airbags add further protection, and Ingelath detailed a list of all safety features:
The Polestar 2 is set to launch in six colors: midnight, magnesium, snow, thunder, moon and void. Users can choose to purchase with or without performance spec. The performance version offers lean chassis, golden seatbelts, and special brake calipers.
The base model is set to retail at launch for €39,900. The team will also offer a €59,900 all-wheel drive with 300 kilowatts of motor power, offering the “plus” package with a panoramic glass roof, pixel LED lights, Weave Tech seats, and a Harmon-Kardon sound system. The car will be available in China, Canada, California, and six European countries. Production is set to start in February 2020, but users will be able to access the configurator and place a reservation immediately.