Volvo’s performance sub-brand Polestar is bringing a striking electric concept car to this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Instead of focusing on flashy performance specs, though, the company is talking up two different topics: the use of sustainable materials throughout the car, and a deeper integration with Google’s new Android Automotive operating system.
The car is called the Polestar Precept, and the company says that name was chosen to “emphasize the vehicle’s role in setting out Polestar’s intent as the contemporary electric performance brand.”
“A precept is a manifesto of things to come; a declaration,” Polestar writes in its press release. Therefore, CEO Thomas Ingenlath says in a statement, this car “is a declaration, a vision of what Polestar stands for and what makes the brand relevant,” and that it also serves as a “response to the clear challenges our society and industry face.”
“This is not a dream of a distant future, Polestar Precept previews future vehicles and shows how we will apply innovation to minimize our environmental impact,” Ingenlath says.
To that end, Polestar has laid out some of the Precept’s green bona fides. The company says the interior panels and seatbacks are made out of “flax-based composites,” which account for an 80 percent reduction in plastic waste, as well as a 50 percent reduction in weight. The Precept’s seats have been “3D-knitted from recycled PET [or polyethylene terephthalate] bottles.” The bolsters (the sides of a car seat’s cushioning) and headrests are made from recycled cork vinyl. And the Precept’s carpets are made out of reclaimed fishing nets, according to Polestar.
The company says that “[t]hese elements, combined with digital artistry, define a new premium luxury that surpasses the conventions of leather, wood and chrome.” But Polestar doesn’t go into any deeper detail about how environmentally friendly the Precept would be if produced.
The Precept is electric, so it won’t produce any emissions while in use, which is good. And electric cars only get more green as the grid gets cleaner, which is also good. But Polestar doesn’t even hint at some of the harder questions about the overall environmental impact of making an electric car, like reducing the carbon footprint of the sourcing of raw materials for the batteries and motors, or the overall emissions of the mass manufacturing process in general. For all the talk in the press release about how the Precept is a preview of Polestar’s future, it appears that we’ll have to wait until Geneva to hear more about exactly what that vision entails on the environmental side of things.
Polestar is also teasing how it wants to deepen the integration of Google’s Android Automotive OS. The company’s already planning to be the first automaker to ship a vehicle with Google’s embedded operating system — which is like a more expansive, phone-free version of modern Android Auto — with the the Polestar 2 electric car later this year. But with the Precept, Polestar says it wants to “open up new possibilities in the car, beyond the already available adjustment of mirrors, seats, climate and entertainment settings to the driver’s personal preferences.”
What does that mean in practice? For one thing, the Precept would recognize the driver as they approach the car and automatically ready their favorite applications and settings. Google Assistant would recognize more languages, including local accents, and be capable of more natural conversations. Polestar also imagines video streaming becoming a bigger component of the in-car experience — while parked or during charging, of course.
In order to cut down on distractions — the Precept does feature a 15-inch dashboard-mounted touchscreen, as well as a 12.5-inch driver display — Polestar says it will use “advanced eye-tracking and proximity sensors to deliver information in a controlled manner.” In other words, the car’s displays will brighten and change what they display when users look at them, or when users reach out to the touchscreen. Polestar also says it will “warn users if they are spending too much time looking at the screen rather than the road ahead.”
Sedans have become a much harder sell in the United States over the last few years as consumers have shifted towards buying SUVs and trucks. (A trend that automakers, who make more money on these vehicles, have happily obliged.) The Precept is a sharp-looking sedan, and while Polestar isn’t talking performance just yet, it’s easy to imagine a production-ready version of this electric car that absolutely hauls. Whether that’s enough to win over size-conscious buyers in the US is a question for another day, though Polestar will start picking away at an answer when it starts shipping the Polestar 2 here in low volumes later this year.
Until any of that happens, though, Polestar remains a curiosity, much like Volvo’s parent company, Geely. The Chinese automotive company bought Volvo all the way back in 2010, and has helped revive the respectable Swedish brand since that acquisition. But in addition to its own electric car ambitions, Geely has also invested in flying cars, London’s electric black cabs, and its founder is now the biggest outside shareholder of German automotive giant Daimler. So whatever Polestar has planned with a car like the Precept, it’s clear that it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes Geely’s ambitions.