Geneva Motor Show 2020

Polestar Precept concept previews brand's digitally advanced electric road ahead

The Polestar Precept signals a design turn for the company.

Photo courtesy of Polestar

Polestar, the automaker owned by Geely, the parent company of Volvo, has evolved to be an electric performance car brand. With that evolution comes a look at what is ahead – in this case the Polestar Precept concept car.

Featuring an interior swathed in sustainable materials and a fresh take on the company's digital user interface, Precept is more than just a design direction. Polestar says that is, "a manifesto of things to come; a declaration."

Polestar Precept At the rear is a light bar that descends on each side into vertical aero-wings.Photo courtesy of Polestar

The car signifies a major milestone for Polestar. It emphasizes the brand's values: pure, progressive, and performance.

"Precept is a declaration, a vision of what Polestar stands for and what makes the brand relevant," comments Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar. "The car is a response to the clear challenges our society and industry face. This is not a dream of a distant future, Polestar Precept previews future vehicles and shows how we will apply innovation to minimize our environmental impact."

The car exhibits what Polestar calls "minimalistic athleticism". This is, in theory at least, the same design mantra Porsche follows with its 911. The exterior focuses on aerodynamic design rather than ornamentation. The Precept has a 3.1-meter wheelbase, which fits the car's large battery pack. Its four-door design takes into account a proper amount of head- and legroom in the rear for comfort.

At the front, instead of a traditional grille there's something the company calls "Polestar SmartZone". The area houses technology for safety sensors and driver assistance functions. The transparent panel at the front covers two radar sensors and a high-definition camera. A LIDAR pod is mounted on top of the glass roof. The traditional Thor's Hammer LED headlights from Volvo's bin evolve in this design with two separate elements.

Polestar Precept The concept pays special attention to rear seat head- and legroom.Photo courtesy of Polestar

Above the SmartZone is an integrated front wing while a wide light-blade spans the entire width of the vehicle's backside, extending into vertical aero-wings.

Side mirrors have been replaced by camera mirrors that are extended into the air on an aerodynamic arm. Cameras like this have been appearing on vehicles for a few years and are already available in Europe. A similar style camera captures all activity at the rear of the car, eliminating the need for a rearview mirror.

Some of the materials that make up the Precept's interior include flax-based composites for interior panels and seatbacks. Seat surfaces are 3D-knitted from recycled PET bottles, bolsters and headrests are made from recycled cork vinyl, while carpets are made from reclaimed fishing nets. These elements, combined with digital artistry, define a new premium luxury that surpasses the conventions of leather, wood and chrome.

The digital interfaces of the car build on Volvo and Polestar's already-established relationship with Google. Running on Android, the portrait-oriented 15-inch center touch screen complements a 12.5-inch driver display. The instrument panel has an array of smart sensors that monitor a driver's gaze and adjust content on the screens accordingly.

A solid piece of Swedish crystal between the rear seat headrests.

The public will get their first look at the Polestar Precept during the Geneva International Motor Show next month.

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Volvo is transitioning to an all-electric lineup.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Cars

Volvo Cars is the latest company to take their commitment to electric powertrains to a new level. Unlike other automakers, like Land Rover who is promising an electric option for its model lineup, Volvo is planning to make their whole lineup electric by 2030.

This means that there will only be all-electric cars and SUVs in its global portfolio and all internal combustion engine and hybrid models will be phased out. By 2025, it aims for 50 percent of its global sales to consist of fully electric cars, with the rest hybrids. By 2040, the company hopes to be carbon neutral. Nissan has similar goals.

Volvo XC40 The Volvo XC40 is currently offered as an all-electric model.Photo courtesy of Volvo Cars

Volvo XC40

Additionally, the brand is rolling out a new commercial strategy that will have them invest heavily in online sales channels in a move to reduce the complexity of its product offerings and set pricing on models, eliminating bargaining at the point of sale, something that the Saturn brand was known for. Via VolvoCars.com buyers will be able to choose from pre-configured electric Volvos that are ready for ordering and quick delivery.

"The future of Volvo Cars is defined by three pillars: electric, online and growth," says Lex Kerssemakers, Head of Global Commercial Operations at Volvo Cars. "We want to offer our customers peace of mind and a care-free way of having a Volvo, by taking away complexity while getting and driving the car. Simplification and convenience are key to everything we do."

Customer offerings will all be housed under one brand, Care by Volvo, which was, until now, the name of the company's subscription service platform.

Dealerships and sales associates still factor into the company's plans. That's good, because many states require new car sales to occur only though an authorized dealership, a point of contention for emerging brands due to the expense and logistic annoyance of establishing a dealer network. Dealerships will be tasked with "a variety of important services such as selling, preparing, delivering and servicing cars" according to a release.

Volvo online ordering and financing process

Photo courtesy of Volvo Cars

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"Online and off-line need to be fully and seamlessly integrated," added Lex Kerssemakers. "Wherever the customer is in their journey – online, in a showroom, in a Volvo Studio, or driving the car – the customer experience needs to be top-notch."

The purchase of an electric Volvo will include a package of traditional extras including service, warranty, roadside assistance, insurance (where available), and home charging options. Sans the insurance, many electric vehicle manufacturers offer these extras already.

"There is no long-term future for cars with an internal combustion engine," said Henrik Green, Chief Technology Officer at Volvo Cars. "We are firmly committed to becoming an electric-only car maker and the transition should happen by 2030. It will allow us to meet the expectations of our customers and be a part of the solution when it comes to fighting climate change."

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The Nissan Ariya has wind glide over it in the testing tunnel.

Photo courtesy of Nisan Motor Company

Nissan is targeting a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.297 for the Ariya all-electric crossover. If it can make that number, it will be the company's most aerodynamic crossover to date. What does that mean? Let's take a closer look.

What is drag?

Simply put, drag is an aerodynamic force. It's mechanical in nature, so it is the result of the interaction of a solid body and a liquid. In the case of a car, this liquid is air. (Yes, air is a liquid.) It only occurs when one part of the equation (the solid body or the liquid) is in motion. If there is no motion, there is no drag.

Drag only occurs in the opposite direction of the object's movement. Think of a car cutting through the air as it drives down a north-south road. As the car heads north, the air it passes through is pushed south. The car is in motion; there is drag.

2022 Nissan Ariya

Photo courtesy of Nisan Motor Company

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What is coefficient of drag?

The coefficient of drag, also called a drag coefficient, is a number that aerodynamics professions (aerodynamicists) use to determine the shape, inclination, and flow conditions on a vehicle's drag. The shape of an object (bullet vs. square vs prism, etc.) has a large impact on the amount of drag created by airflow surrounding a vehicle. Objects with narrower front ends tend to have a lower coefficient.

Scientists and vehicle designers want to keep air moving around the car for maximum efficiency. The inclination of the airflow to either move in a smooth, connected pattern, or to be broken up with air sitting, stalling in one particular part of the vehicle, lessening airflow and making the vehicle less aerodynamic.

A vehicle's Cd is determined by plugging various measurements into an equation. Cd is equal to drag (D) divided by the quantity of density (r) multiplied by half the velocity (V) squared multiple by the reference area (A). As an equation, it looks like this: Cd = D / (A * .5 * r * V^2).

The smaller the Cd, the more aerodynamic a vehicle is.

2022 Nissan Ariya

The Nissan Ariya employs aerodynamic wheel design, made to help it cut though the air with greater ease.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

What is the coefficient of drag of the Nissan Ariya?

"With the growing shift towards electric mobility, aerodynamic testing is becoming increasingly important. The aerodynamics of electric vehicles are directly linked to how efficiently the vehicle moves – less drag and better stability allows the customer to drive longer distances before having to recharge," said Sarwar Ahmed, Aerodynamics and Aeroacoustics Engineer at Nissan Technical Centre Europe.

Nissan is targeting a 0.297 coefficient of drag for the Ariya. How will it achieve that number? By utilizing precisely shaped body lines and strategically placed air ducts, among other components. There's a bonus to better aerodynamics when it comes to EVs.

"Following official homologation of the Nissan Ariya later this year, we anticipate the range to improve compared to the 310 mile figure shared in 2020 during the World Premiere. This will give drivers more efficiency and confidence to go even further on a single charge," said Marco Fioravanti, VP Product Planning, Nissan Europe.

How does the Ariya's coefficient of drag compare to other Nissans?

The newest Nissans, the Kicks, Pathfinder, and Frontier, don't have their Cd publicly available yet, but other models have their results. The targeted 0.297 Cd in the Ariya is less than that in the 2021 Armada, Murano, and Rogue. But, it's higher than the Nissan Leaf.

The fact that it's higher than the Leaf is not surprising. Shorter cars tend to be more aerodynamic because they sit lower to the ground and have a smaller profile. That also explains why Nissan's largest and boxiest SUV, the Armada, has the highest number on the list.

How does the Ariya's coefficient of drag compare to numbers from other EVs?

The Nissan Ariya's coefficient of drag is higher than that of most other electric cars, crossovers, and SUVs sold in the U.S. Here's where the others measure up:

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