For automakers who are under intense regulatory and social pressure to reduce their carbon output, sustainability is about more than just tailpipe emissions. Most car companies are looking for ways to reduce pollution in every area from manufacturing to materials choices and beyond. And now Volvo-adjacent electric performance brand Polestar says its new Polestar 4 crossover coupe is a carbon-fighting beast. 

Polestar has been rather transparent so far on the emissions and sustainability front. Now that the first Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for the Polestar 4 has been published, it reveals the EV has the lowest carbon footprint of all the brand's cars to date – as low as 19.4 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) at launch. What does that actually mean and how was Polestar able to achieve it?

A car's carbon footprint is calculated based on its energy consumption – keep in mind that the energy source is also important – and CO2 emissions. Those include emissions caused by the extraction of gas, minerals, and other raw ingredients, the production of the various parts, the assembly of the car, the logistics chain it depends on while in use, its recycling, and its end of life. Basically, everything from the moment a vehicle's production begins until it can no longer be used.

However, in the case of the Polestar 4, the figures correspond to the vehicle's "cradle-to-gate" carbon footprint, which starts with the purchase of materials and ends with the car exiting the factory; the assessment excludes the actual use by owners and end-of-life stages, so that's worth keeping in mind.

As you can imagine, manufacturing a vehicle with a low carbon footprint is no easy task and takes a lot of planning, which is exactly the case with the Polestar 4.

Gallery: Polestar 4

"To support our net zero goal, we set carbon budgets for all our cars," said Fredrika Klarén, Head of Sustainability at Polestar. "Throughout the product development of Polestar 4, its carbon budget has influenced everything from material choices to factory energy sources. Sharing the LCA enables us to show that we can strive for net zero – one tonne of CO2e at a time."

So how did Polestar reach a carbon footprint of 19.4 tonnes of CO2e for the Polestar 4 at launch?

For starters, the electric crossover coupe is built using green power that combines hydropower electricity with photovoltaic electricity from solar panels placed on the factory roof – the Polestar 4 is built at Geely Holding's SEA factory in Hangzhou Bay, China.

The automaker says the climate impact is reduced further thanks to the higher use of low-carbon aluminum from smelters using hydropower electricity. Speaking of aluminum, the Polestar 4 LCA includes data regarding the share of recycled aluminum for the first time; aluminum makes up 23-24 percent of the carbon footprint, while steel and iron represent 20 percent.

Unsurprisingly, battery modules are the highest contributor to the Polestar 4's carbon footprint; they account for 36-40 percent of carbon emissions from materials production and refining.

The Polestar 4 variant with the lowest carbon footprint of 19.4 tonnes of CO2e is the Standard range Single motor, followed by the Long range Single motor version with 19.9 tonnes CO2e. The Polestar 4 Long range Dual motor has the highest carbon footprint of the lineup at 21.4 tonnes CO2e.

We asked Polestar where these differences come from and we'll update the story when we hear back. We can only assume they are due to the Long range models' larger battery and the Dual motor version's additional electric motor.

Polestar has published details of the carbon footprint of all its vehicles since 2020. The EV maker says it believes the car industry should be a driving force in the shift to sustainable mobility, and that transparency is key for that to happen.

Production of the Polestar 4 is scheduled to begin in China this month. The automaker plans to launch the electric crossover coupe in the U.S. sometime in 2024.

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