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Polestar calls for urgent change to auto sector

Fuel efficiency standards just part of an urgent change required, says Polestar boss

25 Aug 2023

POLESTAR Australia has called for the automotive industry to ‘run, not walk’ towards a new fuel efficiency standard that would bring the nation into line with other places around the world in its targets to lower tailpipe CO2 emissions.


The federal government has been studying a new fuel efficiency standard (FES) that will essentially mandate lower-emissions vehicles to form part of the model mix for brands, in turn speeding up the nation’s transition to a more efficient range of vehicles being sold.


Last week, the federal department of infrastructure published the results of a consultation paper on the proposed FES scheme, but nothing has been put into law yet – and it appears possible that the rollout of any such legislation may be held off until 2025, according to Polestar Australia managing director, Samantha Johnson.


Speaking at the launch of the updated Polestar 2 electric car in Canberra recently, Ms Johnson said the industry cannot be leisurely in its approach to this crucial legislation.


She encouraged other OEMs to join together and run, not walk, towards a standard that will see more electric and electrified vehicles offered here, not to mention requirements for more efficient petrol and diesel models.


“We need to be more ambitious. We really do need to be doing things at a much faster pace and they can't be comfortable. They can't be for industry, I guess, commercial reasons to move at a comfortable pace,” she said.


“We can't afford to take our time and do it at a comfortable pace. So, we work with the industry bodies, and other stakeholders.


“We're on the board of the Electric Vehicle Council. And we're in the FCAI (Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries), we’re a member there as well. So, we try and work with the stakeholders involved in this industry to say we need to be more ambitious.


“That's why we do need to be involved with the industry groups and other electric vehicle brands and saying together we need to promote fuel efficiency standards, we need to provide the infrastructure that supports (EVs) so that we have more manufacturers having the confidence to bring electric vehicles to Australia.”


Polestar Australia made an 11-page submission to the Fuel Efficiency Standard consultation, in which it called for robust measures to bring down the carbon intensity of the nation’s light vehicle fleet, referencing a 2022 report by the International Council on Clean Transportation that compared Australia’s car and light commercial vehicle emissions unfavourably to other developed markets such as the United States and European Union.


It warned that going for the “start slow” option in the consultation paper would risk Australia “remaining a dumping ground for high-emission vehicles – and for longer”.


“This would do little for Australia’s emissions profile to 2030 but would enable global manufacturers to meet global sales targets with cheaper vehicles,” said the submission.


“With the right policy settings through the establishment of a strong Fuel Efficiency Standard, the Australian Government can not only meet – but beat – efforts already taken around the world to drive down the tailpipe emissions.”


At the Polestar 2 launch, Ms Johnson referred to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which showed that the world needs to act more assertively to limit the effects of, and the potential for, catastrophic climate change.


“It has to be that if we don't move at the pace we need to go – the IPCC report, and our own pathways report – just shows that we’re going to way overshoot everything,” she said of the IPCC’s aim to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, which would imply reaching net zero CO2 emissions globally at around 2050.


“Looking at our industry, it's going to be electrification, renewable energy. We have to do all these things to make sure that we're moving on a faster pathway.


“But if the government, industry, or any of the manufacturers are pushing to pull anything back, we’re going to way overshoot that 1.5 degree increase, which is going to be unsafe for humanity.


“We can’t be comfortable. We've got to move a lot faster. And I wish there were a lot more companies that were joining us in the journey. There are others, there are others that are working with us for that policy advocacy, but there needs to be a lot more, but we're hoping that as EVs increase in Australia, that voice will get greater and greater.”


Polestar is one of the world’s most transparent car brands when it comes to emissions information available to consumers.


The company offers a ‘cradle to gate’ assessment for its models, and prides itself on being more agile than most other established automotive manufacturers when it comes to realising improvements to its CO2 impact.


Earlier in 2023, Polestar’s head of sustainability, Fredrika Klarén, called on OEMs to “tear up” their existing plans to combat climate change because they were already lagging.

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