Polestar boss says its electric cars will be ‘truly carbon neutral’ by 2030

Tomás Ingenlath sits down and looks around. Behind us is a wall, full of dials, switches and gauges.

He can’t help but smile. We are in Control Room B in Battersea Power Station. It is now a bar, but this place once controlled all the electricity for a stretch of London. Here it is, Ingenlath, the designer-turned-CEO of Polestar, the electric car performance brand, and we’re reminded of what energy generation used to be like.

There is a visible disconnect: the beautifully restored power station with its huge cathedral-like turbine halls, art deco features and now, designer shops and bars, compared to the dinosaur clunkiness of what it used to be. It is the same as the Ingenlath car. Downstairs in the ‘Polestar Space’ – they don’t call them showrooms – the fastback 2 model, along with many other vehicles on the road looks positively ancient and slow.

Ingenlath certainly looks the part. He’s wearing a black cashmere roll – a favorite of that other design guru whose chief executive, Steve Jobs. He is tanned, well groomed, slim – probably from the cycling, sailing and skiing he loves to do.

It’s true, it’s not like a traditional motorist or corporate boss. No dull suit, shirt and tie set, for him.

Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath


Ingenlath was born in 1964, in Germany. Married with two sons and a daughter, he lives a bike ride away from Polestar’s global headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden.

He has been head of the firm since 2017, during which time he has managed the marque’s launch and subsequent rise to become a well-known brand, earning the respect of his leading lines, outside and inside, as well as excellent performance. The infotainment screen is something to behold, and in one of those details that smack of smart thinking and smart design it’s partnered with Google.

Globally, Polestar’s sales had increased by 80 percent to 51,500 cars in 2022, easily meeting its targets. This year, the firm, which was listed on NASDAQ last year, is leading sales of around 80,000. In the UK, Polestar grew at twice the industry rate – sales up 80 per cent compared to a sector increase of 40 per cent. They have launched the Polestar 3, an SUV, and plan to roll out three more models by 2026.

It’s an excellent path for Polestar, until it was spun off to create a separate company, which was the high-performance label for Volvo – like AMG for Mercedes – and hence the Swedish connection. Volvo is still the major shareholder, although Volvo itself is part of the Chinese Geely group. Polestar cars are manufactured in China.

After studying at the university at Pforzheim in Germany, Ingenlath obtained a master’s degree in vehicle design at the Royal College of Art in London. He joined the Volkswagen group and worked for its Audi subsidiary. He rose to become chief exterior designer for Volkswagen, who then became chief designer for its Skoda range.

In 2006, he became Design Director at the Volkswagen Design Center in Potsdam. In 2012, he moved to Volvo, as head of design, and led the product turnaround. Six years ago, he was put in charge of Polestar.

Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath


He is steering the company to slot neatly into a gap that is opening up in a market once dominated by Tesla. Elon Musk’s brand is still the leader, but while Tesla was once disruptive, it looks more like an established car manufacturer. Musk’s courting of controversy, which has made him increasingly divisive, has not helped Tesla’s position. That created an opportunity for Polestar to challenge Tesla on price, performance and innovation. Musk’s car no longer turns heads, unlike Ingenlath’s uniquely shaped Polestar.

Elements of previous designs for Audi and Volvo can be seen in the Polestar and it oozes Scandinavian cool. But Ingenlath is very much his own man, responsible not only for giving Polestar cars their distinctive, cutting-edge look but also for defining the entire brand, including changing the way its cars are sold.

For him, he says, design is not just about looks but the whole approach of the brand, and that means revolutionizing sales. Go to Polestar spaces in the 27 markets where it sells and you won’t be sold the car. His staff are paid salaries and that’s it – they don’t earn a commission for selling cars. They are there to give information and help, to answer questions, to take a test drive; the cars are sold entirely online.

“The Polestar Space is about you, the customer, and the car,” says Ingenlath. “It’s not about creating an environment where a seller can close a deal.” In that sense, Polestar is like Apple – the Apple Store staff are there to explain and help, not sell you something you don’t want or wouldn’t be able to use. “There is no bargaining; people want certainty that they are not being ripped off,” he says. “They don’t want someone saying they can do a ‘special price’ on something parked around the back.”

All the form filling, the finance, it is done remotely. There is no sitting at a desk in a showroom, having a coffee and obeying the patter. If they believe the car may not be right for you, they will say so. Significant, and refreshingly different from other places. He grinned. “We’re able to do these things because we’re new, because we haven’t inherited a dealer network.”

(Nasdaq, Inc. / Vanja Savic)

A word he returns to again and again, is “transparency”. It applies throughout the piece, everywhere in the supply chain, sale and beyond. Every Polestar has a “life-cycle assessment” that clearly states to every customer the impact of their car on the environment.

It’s not that Ingenlath is playing green, taking care of climate change concerns, his company really is green – and it’s a car company. Its “moonshot goal”, which it is actively pursuing, is a “climate-neutral production car by 2030”. That’s quite an aim if you think about all the aspects that go into making a car. As he says: “Many think it’s impossible, but we dare to be different. And by 2030, we plan to make it happen.”

That means, “We will eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from all aspects of production, not reduce them. From conception all the way to customer delivery, our goal will be achieved without resorting to compensation. Zero means zero.”

He sees his role as “creating a desirable brand, about creating a brand that fits lifestyle brands. It’s about interpreting where technology is going, where society is going and where we, as a company, fit into that.” It’s a clear advantage, “that the company is young, so we’re not holding back the past. A lot of what I do is to make sure we stay relevant in the future.”

To think, I say, he hasn’t mentioned any of the things that motor CEOs often want to discuss, such as production rates, parts sourcing, rising costs. “I can if you want,” he says, his eyes twinkling. No need, I reply. We are both laughing.

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