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Volvo-owned Swedish electric performance car brand Polestar has announced its ambitious goal to have the world’s first carbon-neutral car on the roads by 2030. The company recognizes the importance of addressing emissions at every stage of automotive production and that to produce a truly carbon-neutral car, it is more than just creating an electric vehicle that produces no emissions. PoleStar is thinking past the traditional pathway of offsetting emissions by planting trees and its efforts will likely guide the future of green transport.
The Automotive Industry is a Major Contributor to Climate Change
Global warming is an issue that threatens human health, the health of the planet, national security, and even the accessibility to basic human needs. In short, the multitude of negative impacts of climate change jeopardizes our future. To address record high temperatures, rising sea levels, and increasingly frequent extreme weather, all industries are being called upon to become carbon neutral.
The transportation sector is a major cause of global warming and our personal vehicles are a major contributing factor to the excessive carbon emissions associated with the industry. Recent data has revealed that cars and trucks account for around 20% of all US emissions, releasing around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per gallon of gas.
This issue is not confined to the US; cars represent a major source of carbon emissions worldwide. In the UK, recent data has shown that the modern trend towards producing larger cars has contributed the largest increase to global carbon dioxide emissions between 2010 and 2018. Large cars, on average, emit 85% more greenhouse gases per km traveled compared with their smaller counterparts.
Since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015, which outlined plans for the EU to reach climate-neutrality by 2050 (an agreement that the US rejoined in 2021), many strategies have been implemented to ensure that countries can reduce their emissions and meet this goal.
The automotive industry has already seen many initiatives established to help the industry reach carbon neutrality by 2050, with some brands aiming to reach this landmark even sooner. GM, for example, announced that it planned to go carbon neutral by 2040 and aimed to stop producing gas-powered vehicles entirely by 2035.
In the UK, the government aims to reduce its total carbon dioxide emissions by 68% by 2030. Plans to allow them to reach this ambitious target involve replacing 46% of its 35 million cars with zero-emission vehicles.
By the end of the current decade, experts advise that for the US to reach their emissions goals, almost all new cars sold at this point will need to be zero-emission vehicles. A recent paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change estimates that, by 2050, 90% of all remaining cars on the road in the US would need to be electric to continue to allow the country to continue to meet its climate change goals. However, data studies suggest that the US is not on track to meet these targets.
The evidence suggests that the US may need to bring forward its goal of selling only electric cars to 2035 to meet its goals. There is a clear need for clean energy vehicles and innovative thinking to further reduce carbon emissions.
Polestar 0 project: A truly climate neutral car by 2030
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Fully Electric is Not Good Enough to Achieve True Carbon Neutrality
Polestar, a Swedish electric performance car brand owned by Volvo, has addressed this need to exceed carbon reduction goals. Not only is it producing electric cars that are carbon-neutral, but it is also considering how to make the entire manufacturing process carbon neutral to result in what truly would be the world’s first carbon-neutral car.
Fredrika Klarén, head of sustainability at Polestar, emphasizes this point “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.”
While other companies attempt to achieve carbon neutrality by offsetting the emissions associated with their operations by planting trees, environmental experts warn that this strategy is not sustainable in the long term. Forests can be logged, or devastated by fire, which would further contribute to carbon emissions, rather than reducing them.
To address the issue with this method, Polestar aims to eliminate the emissions associated with design and production, rather than offsetting these emissions by planting trees, which will be a more sustainable strategy in the long term. The company is set to cause a paradigm shift in the industry, forcing other companies to consider the suitability of the off-setting strategy and explore other options.
Polestar is encouraging the automotive industry to be completely transparent about carbon footprint reporting across the entire supply chain. As a result, this may bring in positive change that will help the industry reduce its emissions so that countries can meet global warming goals set out by the Paris agreement.
References and Further Reading
About Polestar. Polestar. Available at: https://about.polestar.com
Polestar 0 project: A truly climate neutral car by 2030. Polestar. Available at: https://www.polestar.com/global/press/press-release/polestar-0-project-a-truly-climate-neutral-car-by-2030
Milovanoff, A., Posen, I. and MacLean, H., 2020. Electrification of light-duty vehicle fleet alone will not meet mitigation targets. Nature Climate Change, 10(12), pp.1102-1107. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-00921-7
New US vehicles must be electric by 2030 to meet climate goals – report. Fiona Harvey. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/11/new-us-vehicles-must-be-electric-by-2030-to-meet-climate-goals-report
UK plans to bring forward ban on fossil fuel vehicles to 2030. Jillian Ambrose. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/21/uk-plans-to-bring-forward-ban-on-fossil-fuel-vehicles-to-2030