Technical Artisans: Polestar’s beginnings and the Polestar 1

If you want to establish yourself as a leading force in emerging vehicle technology, it pays to be wired a little differently. Welcome, Polestar.

Born from motorsport, this company is one now of the most exciting developers of new vehicle electrification technology. The journey is a little unorthodox, but that’s just how Polestar like it.

You don’t have to dig too deep to understand how Volvo’s standalone, electrified offshoot, Polestar, intends to shake things up. Straight out of the gate, Polestar seeks to assert itself as a revolutionary in the wider automotive world and rewrite a few rule books along the way. Importantly, they’ve got the chops to do it.

So, who are Polestar exactly, and how did all this come to be?

Polestar has ties to Volvo dating back to 1996, where, under the name ‘Flash Engineering’ it developed a Volvo 850 sedan for competition Sweden’s Touring Car Championship. The team was later sold and rebranded as Polestar Racing and, in 2009 became the official Volvo partner to modify existing models and develop Volvo’s more extreme performance concept vehicles under the brand Polestar Performance.

Fast-forward to 2014 and up-and-coming Kiwi racer Scott McLaughlin made the V8 Supercars field sit up and take notice. Driving a Polestar-built Volvo S60 at the car’s debut event, Scott cemented himself as a talent to watch when he famously “Plucked first gear and giving it some jandal,” boldly overtook championship leader, Jaime Whincup for second place on the final lap.

In 2017, Volvo and its parent company, Geely, saw more potential in Polestar’s engineering capabilities than just building winning track vehicles, however. The brand’s remit was changed to instead develop leading hybrid and electric vehicle technology – and not just to benefit Volvo, but as a standalone brand with its own vision and personality.

Leaning into that opportunity with youthful exuberance, the brand set about launching a vehicle that redefined the premium Grand Tourer category.

That car was the Polestar 1.

Restricted to just 1500 units globally, the Polestar 1 aesthetically hinted at its Volvo linage. Initially you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as a coupe version of Volvo’s big S90 sedan. Instead, it was an entirely unique form factor, with an upper body made entirely of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer, which is 10 times stronger than steel and five times lighter. The unprecedented use of carbon bodywork increased torsional stiffness over traditional steel by 45%.

Just as well, as the Polestar 1 is also brutally powerful. Featuring a hybrid powertrain combining a high-performance turbo four-cylinder petrol engine with two rear-wheel electric motors and an Integrated Starter Generator, peak power is rated at 600hp/441 kW. Maximum torque is an impressive 1,000Nm and acceleration from 0-100 km/h takes just 3.9 seconds.

Many cars promise torque vectoring, but few genuinely deliver, said Polestar at the Polestar 1’s launch. To demonstrate its expertise the Polestar 1’s rear axle has no brakes and no mechanical limited slip differential.

Instead, Polestar 1's twin electric motors on the rear axle adapt the power to each rear wheel. The result is agile, reactive steering, and excellent grip and stability around corners. How good is it? Respected UK motoring outlet, What Car? said of the Polestar 1: “It takes the rulebook for high performance GTs and totally obliterates it”

The sleek cockpit, awash with hand stitched leather, puts the driver at the centre of their very own performance universe, with carefully curated materials, and a modernistic monochrome palette with striking accent colours.

The exclusive gearshift for the 8-speed transmission is handcrafted out of genuine, lead-free crystal by the Swedish glass artisans at Orrefors and in the boot, behind a scratch-resistant plexiglass window, lies a unique feature – Polestar 1's bright orange, high-voltage wiring.

The car is quite unlike anything else, and Polestar treats its technology like artwork, showcasing and celebrating it as a thing of beauty. In fact, the manufacturer considers the Polestar 1 to be such an exclusive artisan product, you can actually trade art to purchase it. Polestar has appointed a respected art appraiser who will evaluate pieces from your collection, which can be used as currency with which to purchase a Polestar 1.

This is Polestar’s comfort zone. They don’t think outside the box because there is no box – just unfettered technical creativity. You think they’re cool now? They’re just getting started.

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