Polestar Precept Concept: The Sustainability-Crazed Polestar 3 Preview
If Polestar 1 and Polestar 2, the first vehicles from Volvo’s new Polestar electric-powered performance and sustainable technology brand, have seemed somewhat familiar, that’s understandable. Polestar’s CEO, Thomas Ingenlath, is Volvo’s former design chief, and Polestar design chief Max Missoni is still moonlighting shaping Volvo exteriors. The Polestar Precept concept is designed to move the needle and break free from Polestar’s Volvo visual connection.
Originally scheduled to have been revealed at the Geneva Show, the Precept hints at the design themes, digital capability, and sustainable hardware we’ll see in Polestar 3, a rakish, XC90-sized SUV that’s scheduled to go on sale in 2022. We had the opportunity to sit down with Polestar’s decision-makers for a closer look at the Precept, a low-slung, four-seat, four-door—a Swedish take on a Porsche Taycan, if you will. Here is what we learned:
Though Polestar offers no detail on what might power the Precept concept, the Polestar 3 will be built on the new SPA2 vehicle architecture that’s destined to underpin Volvo’s next-gen XC90 and XC60 SUVs, as well as new versions of the S90 and S60 sedans, and V90 and V60 wagons. That means it will incorporate a large under-floor battery pack, and electric drive motors at the front and rear axles, a configuration that would fit under the Precept’s tautly surfaced skin.
“It was important for us to make a statement and show a vision for our design future,” says Max Missoni of the Precept. “Polestar 1 and 2 were partially rooted in the Volvo design language and those cars found a home in Polestar because they were quite extreme to start with and didn’t really fit into the Volvo lineup. But now it is time to show how pure and how progressive we want to look.”
There’s still some Volvo DNA in the Precept – the headlight graphic is an evolution of the T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” design that features on all current Volvos, while the extravagant dash-to-axle ratio, the arcing greenhouse, and the line over the rear fender are all echoes of design cues found on the S60 sedan. But the Precept’s crisp linework and tightly disciplined surfaces, its bold gesture and technical detailing, are uniquely Polestar.
The clamshell hood features a wing stretching between the headlights that’s designed to boost range by reducing turbulence over the rest of the body. Vents behind the front wheels allow air to exit the wheelhouses and contribute to a more laminar flow around the side of the car. Vents in front of and behind the rear wheels contribute to brake cooling, as well as wheelhouse depressurization.
In place of a conventional grille, the Precept has what Polestar calls the SmartZone where all the technological hardware required for semi-autonomous capability, including long- and mid-range radar units, ultrasonic sensors and a high-definition wide-angle camera, is housed. Additional SmartZones on either side of the car contain additional driving assistance sensors, and a LIDAR pod is mounted at the front of the roof.
The Precept has a panoramic glass roof, but no rear window. The relatively shallow angle of the backlight, which was designed to maximize aerodynamic efficiency, would have made rearward visibility a challenge (think ’71 Ford Mustang Mach 1, louvered and all) so Missoni’s team decided to rely on cameras instead. “We debated whether it was going to be claustrophobic without a rear window,” Missoni admits, “but it turns out that you can stretch the glass roof so far back that the opposite happens. And it gives you not only a very sleek silhouette, but also a big tailgate.”
Rear view cameras are just a small part of the Polestar Precept’s technology arsenal. The car’s user interface is powered by Android and builds on Polestar’s close collaboration with Google. The system recognizes the driver upon approach, with settings and personal content authenticated by the Polestar Digital Key
An enlarged, portrait-oriented 15-inch center touch screen complements a 12.5-inch driver display, and the two are linked by an illuminated blade that encompasses the entire interior. An eye tracking system monitors where the driver is looking and adjusts the way information is presented accordingly—smaller and more detailed when the driver is focused on the display, and larger, brighter, with only vital information when the driver is focused on the road. Proximity sensors adjust what is shown on the screen depending on where the user’s hand is placed.
Will the Polestar 3 offer some of these features? It is likely. And the 3 will have an interior using some of the sustainable materials showcased in the Precept’s cabin. So, that means we should not only expect the next generation of Polestar models to visually break with Volvo’s lineup, but technologically separate from those more mainstream models, too.
Flax-based composites developed in conjunction with components supplier Bcomp are used for the Precept’s interior panels and seatbacks, and, says Missoni, offer significant improvements over conventional materials, including weight savings of up to 50 percent, in weight and up to an 80 percent reduction in plastic waste. The Precept’s seat coverings are 3D-knitted from recycled PET bottles and made exactly to size to eliminate offcuts. Reclaimed plastic bottles are also used for the headlining material, the carpets are woven from a material made from old fishing nets, and waste and recycled cork from the wine industry has been converted into a vinyl and used in the seat bolsters and headrests.
“It’s a new style of premium,” says Missoni of the Precept’s clean yet dramatically elegant interior. “There’s no doubt this is a luxury vehicle. It’s just not your traditional wood and leather solution.”
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