Town & Country (UK)
BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS
Philip Astor is impressed by Polestar’s electric offerings with their sleek designs and sterling eco credentials
CARS Philip Astor ponders the passing of petrol as he plugs in a pair of battery-powered Polestars
Iam as concerned as the next man about climate change. Indeed, one of my responsibilities as tree warden on our local Parish Council in Norfolk is to encourage the community to reduce the impact of global warming by planting more trees. It is just as well that my remit doesn’t extend to cars, as our own two vehicles, while not exactly gas guzzlers, do nothing to mitigate our carbon footprint. A good time, therefore, to undertake further exploration of the electric-vehicle market-place.
Since my last such report, a significant new name has entered the fray: Polestar. The company (an offshoot of Volvo, itself a major player in the brave new world of EVS) currently offers two models, imaginatively named the Polestar 1 and Polestar 2. The Polestar 1 is a deliciously sleek grand tourer, with a hint of retro in its design, reminiscent even of the iconic Volvo P1800 driven by Roger Moore’s ‘The Saint’ in the 1960s. With a hybrid engine, the P1 does offer a partial response to current environmental pressures, although I should confess that I kept it in petrol-driven Power mode all the time. It is very fast, ultra-exclusive and retails at around £140,000.
More reasonably priced and 100 per cent electric is the Polestar 2, which is a four-door hatchback saloon. While it doesn’t boast the thoroughbred looks of its stablemate, its sturdy appearance belies a car that is genuinely fun to drive. I was immediately tickled by the fact that as soon as you sit behind the wheel, it is ready to go. There is one electric motor for each axle, with power split 50–50 between front and rear, generating 402 bhp and a proportionate amount of torque. The resulting acceleration is astonishingly sporty, shifting effortlessly and without gears, of course, from 0 to 60 in less than five seconds. Although it sits quite high, the P2 deftly gripped the Norfolk roads.
I collected the car in London and felt at ease in its refined Scandi-style interior, with a panoramic glass roof providing a wonderful sense of airiness. Polestar is proud that the trim comprises vegan upholstery and repurposed wood. Quite as important for me was the fact that it was nice and comfy. I also found the tablet that displays the infotainment system – Google-designed with Android software – intuitive and responsive.
All in all, Polestar has produced a versatile electric car, with a remarkable array of equipment, at a competitive price just shy of £50k. So, what’s not to love? Well, I’m afraid it’s the familiar conundrum of matching the car’s battery range with the charging infrastructure. The Polestar 2’s range is officially 292 miles, but a more realistic consensus suggests somewhere between 200 and 220. As for the nationwide network of electricity provision, I must declare that, through no fault of Polestar’s, my experience was nightmarish.
The car had been delivered with its battery 75 per cent charged. That proved to be enough to cover the 110 miles from London to Norfolk, albeit with only 10 miles to spare. The trip back was more hairy. Plugging into the mains overnight is frankly a sluggish way of generating power; I would have been good for about 40 miles. The two charging points in our town were either incompatible with Polestar or not yet operational. At the next town, I added what I believed to be another 150 miles’ worth; but without in any way driving wantonly, I watched in increasing panic as the kilowatts ebbed away. I managed to creep into a service station on the M11, and found just two charging stations, for which several demoralised converts to electric power were queuing. Once again, there were irksome issues over compatibility. With my own battery at seven per cent, I headed off once more into the dark unknown, eventually stumbling on a suitable connector somewhere in Harlow.
The plain truth is that this country is nowhere near ready for the electric cars it, quite properly, wants us all to buy. And the multiplicity of charging companies – all with different apps and plug-in technologies – tends to make the process of recharging a source of anxiety and confusion. So, much as I warmed to the singular merits of the greener Polestar 2, for now I would sooner set my sights on the hybrid but more dazzling Polestar 1. www.polestar.com