Skip advert
Advertisement

How green are electric cars? Polestar data shows ICE trailing EV

Electric car maker reveals whole-life CO2 emissions of the Polestar 2 are better than a petrol XC40 - but EV is only 14% cleaner with global energy mix

Polestar 1 close up of the grill and badge

Polestar - the premium EV sibling of Volvo, itself owned by Chinese firm Geely - has revealed the true lifecycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of its Polestar 2 electric car, and called out car makers over a “disturbing lack of transparency” relating to the environmental impact of different types of car. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

The firm has also highlighted that “supply chain traceability is essential to avoid human rights violations and environmental damage from mineral mining”, alluding to concerns surrounding the supply of materials such as cobalt, which is often mined by children in unsafe working conditions

Whole life emissions

The lifecycle CO2 analysis shows that from the moment metals are mined and materials produced for the manufacture of a Polestar 2, to the end of its life and the recycling and disposal of its components, the electric car is responsible for generating 50 tonnes of CO2. That compares to 58 tonnes for a petrol-powered Volvo XC40 SUV - a cleanliness improvement of 14 per cent for electricity over petrol. 

That 50-tonne figure for the Polestar 2 is based upon the global electricity mix, however, and falls to 42 tonnes when cleaner European electricity is used as the basis for calculations. If wind power alone is used to charge the Polestar 2’s batteries, it would be responsible for just 27 tonnes of CO2 over its lifecycle. Those figures mean in Europe a Polestar 2 is responsible for 27.6 per cent less CO2 than the XC40, and could be up to 53.4 per cent cleaner.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

The drive for electric cars continues to ramp up day by day, with the UK Government previously saying it would ban the sale of new cars with a petrol or diesel engine by 2040, before moving the date forward to 2035 - if not sooner. Yet while EVs are undoubtedly cleaner than internal combustion engined (ICE) cars, they are by no means emission free. Particulates from tyre and brake wear, for example, can be harmful to human health, while the environmental benefits of electric cars shrink (though do not disappear) in countries where coal is the main source of electricity. 

How electric cars are made is also crucial to their environmental impact. Polestar highlights that the production of battery packs is responsible for “a relatively large carbon footprint”. As a result of this, the Polestar 2 is responsible for generating 26.2 tonnes of CO2 due to its materials and production, compared to 16.1 tonnes for a petrol XC40

Significant CO2 improvements are to be found during the ‘use phase’ of the cars’ lives, however, with the XC40 responsible for 41 tonnes of CO2, and the Polestar 2 generating 23 tonnes based on global electricity generation, 15 tonnes based on the European energy mix, and just 0.4 tonnes if its batteries are charged only with wind power (wind turbines requiring energy to manufacture, install and maintain).

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Impact of electricity sources 

Electricity sources also have a big role to play in the ‘break even point’ for emissions - the point at which electric cars, and their more polluting manufacturing processes, become cleaner than petrol cars. Based on worldwide electricity production, a Polestar 2 would have to be driven 112,000 km (69,600 miles) before it becomes cleaner than a petrol XC40. In Europe that figure is 78,000 km (48,500 miles), while if wind power alone generates all its electricity, a Polestar 2 would only have to be driven 50,000 km (31,000 miles), according to the analysis. 

While Polestar’s report focuses on lifecycle CO2 emissions, the car maker said that “promoting supply chain traceability is essential to avoid human rights violations and environmental damage from mineral mining.” Late last year, Polestar said it would use blockchain technology to create a traceable, digital ledger relating to cobalt production, in response to concerns over how the material is mined and refined. 

Announcing the publication of the report, Polestar’s chief executive officer, Thomas Ingenlath, said: “Car manufacturers have not been clear in the past with consumers on the environmental impact of their products,...That’s not good enough. We need to be honest, even if it makes for uncomfortable reading.”

The company boss added: “The message is clear...Electric vehicles offer a route to climate neutrality and we will use the insights from this report to reach that goal.”

Looking to make the switch to electric motoring? Check out the best electric cars here...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV is £200,000 of electric opulence
Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV front 3/4
News

Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV is £200,000 of electric opulence

If a regular Mercedes EQS SUV isn’t flash enough, then Maybach might have the answer…
17 May 2024
Polestar 2 to be replaced by Polestar 7 in new Apple iPhone-style naming plan
Polestar 1 close up of the grill and badge
News

Polestar 2 to be replaced by Polestar 7 in new Apple iPhone-style naming plan

The next-generation Polestar 2 will be called Polestar 7 in a move to a new chronological naming strategy
16 May 2024
Halve the VAT on EVs to boost private sales, says VW boss
VW ID.4 - O/S tracking
News

Halve the VAT on EVs to boost private sales, says VW boss

VW UK boss wants a lower VAT rate for electric cars to bring down prices and stimulate demand from private buyers
16 May 2024
Mercedes says ‘no thank you’ to EQ: EV brand to be axed
Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 - EQS badge
News

Mercedes says ‘no thank you’ to EQ: EV brand to be axed

Mercedes will roll back EQ branding for its electric cars as the first generation of EV models reaches the end of its lifecycle.
15 May 2024

Most Popular

New 2024 Nissan Qashqai prices and specs announced as family SUV war heats up
Nissan Qashqai reveal - full front
News

New 2024 Nissan Qashqai prices and specs announced as family SUV war heats up

The start price for the Nissan Qashqai has increased by £3,000 due to the loss of the old entry-level Visia trim
24 May 2024
Car Deal of the Day: new VW Tiguan in well-equipped Match trim for under £300 a month
Volkswagen Tiguan - front cornering
News

Car Deal of the Day: new VW Tiguan in well-equipped Match trim for under £300 a month

Volkswagen’s practical and refined mid-size SUV is our Deal of the Day for 24 May
24 May 2024
Suzuki Swift vs MG3 2024 twin test: bargain small car battle
MG3 and Suzuki Swift - front cornering
Car group tests

Suzuki Swift vs MG3 2024 twin test: bargain small car battle

The Ford Fiesta’s demise has left a yawning chasm in the supermini class. Can the new MG3 and Suzuki Swift fill it?
25 May 2024