The just-debuted 2 Single Motor from Polestar (an EV brand co-owned by Volvo and Geely) might not be miraculously superior in every way to its primary competitor, the Tesla Model 3—chiefly because it cannot be charged on Tesla’s nearly ubiquitous Supercharger network—but it is impressive. In a quietly Swedish way, it’s quite sporty, the cabin is more luxurious and creative than the Model 3, and it’s a relative bargain too. Also, Polestar has partnered with Google on the car’s Android-based OS, which augers intriguing innovations that provide the tech giant a great deal of runway to experiment in an entirely different environment.
While Tesla has exhausted all of its federal tax incentives, Polestar hasn’t. This pool of money gives EV makers an allotment of cars to sell that offers the buyer federal tax credits. How much a customer actually gets back depends very much on their own federal taxes and other deductions. This is somewhat arcane (and the situation may change if new Congressional legislation passes) but currently a $45,900 Polestar 2 Single Motor qualifies for $7,500 in federal incentives, while the basic, $39,990 Model 3 Long Range, does not.
The estimated EPA range of the Polestar 2 Single Motor is 265 miles versus the 262 EPA of the base model Tesla (the Model 3 Standard Range Plus). Also, Polestar promises the Single Motor will recharge from 10 to 80 percent in a half-hour on a 155 kWh DC fast charger.
Driving the Polestar 2 Single Motor might seem less exhilarating than the Dual Motor model—its 231hp system takes seven seconds to reach 60mph, and in the Dual Motor (with 402hp) it takes just four seconds. But electric vehicles feel fastest during transitions, and the Single Motor boasts the exact, intense acceleration expected (and needed) when merging onto the interstate or when overtaking a chugging truck.
Moreover, the base Polestar 2 Single Motor gets the balance right between poised and nails-hard suspension. While customers can order a sportier suspension, the base car’s ability to soak up potholes is already impressive. On one mountain circuit outside of New Mexico—where we tested the car—the pavement was shattered, off camber and, at times, covered in grit. Through all that, the car floated effortlessly through the detritus, making the experience behind the wheel tranquil, even when we pushed the Polestar more aggressively.
That experience continues in the cockpit. There’s a distinct absence of that “new car” smell because Polestar uses flax, recycled plastic from fishing nets, and other vegan materials throughout (including a dash made from recycled wood byproducts) to vastly reduce off-gassing typically caused by meters of plastic and foam. These materials create a kind of olfactory calm. Visually, a pique fabric used on the dash, door panels and the outboard bolsters of the seats sets a tone of Scandinavian coziness that defies the tech-heavy light show overtures that have become the norm in other EV brands.
If Polestar has an edge, it’s in leaning into its Volvo heritage and understanding timelessness. To turn the page toward EVs doesn’t mean ditching all that has worked to date.
The cabin’s overall material softness is balanced against a center-mounted 11.15-inch Google-engineered display. Here, you can see content from a paired phone—currently that’s Android-centric. Apple’s CarPlay integration will come as a running update, as will Sirius/XM radio. Our test car had app-integration from Tidal, allowing high-bit-rate audio fed through the ultra-clear, standard 250-watt eight-speaker sound system, but because this is an Android-based system we were able to ask Google to play everything from radio stations to other cloud-based providers, and the car’s own SIM handled the connectivity.
What’s intriguing about Polestar in particular is their avowed openness to exploring what Google can offer. For instance, while Alexa is coming to a great number of carmakers, Google’s massive lead on real-time mapping can provide Polestar drivers with a far more advanced understanding of road hazards, traffic jams and user-to-vehicle communication. One reason the brand wanted to work with Google was because of all the tech brand’s work on natural speech-recognition. Oftentimes, cars you can “talk” to fail to understand intonation or accents, but we encountered none of that during six hours behind the wheel of the Polestar 2.
Google integration is also very likely to provide actionable data back to Polestar, from how their customers are driving to their charging habits, and how that may lead to updates that could optimize battery life or recharge times or even how heating or cooling work. This could lead to faster updates on everything from performance to safety data, in very real time.
This point shouldn’t be lost. Many people replace their phones every few years, but the same isn’t true of cars. So cars typically begin to lag technologically. Polestar seems to be asking how to change that.
Images courtesy of Polestar