LOOK out Tesla. Volvo is coming and fast.
Polestar, a new stand-alone premium electric-vehicle company owned by Volvo, has been launched as the company maintains its commitment to only electric or hybrid vehicles from 2019.
The prestige brand will bring its first two vehicles to market that same year, with Volvo and its Chinese owner Zhejiang Geely pledging to invest $US755 million ($962m) to develop the company.
Revealed this week was the hybrid Polestar 1, a four-seater grand tourer which generates 447kW (600 horsepower) and has a range of 150km on pure electric power alone. When combined with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder combustion engine, it can pump out an eye-watering 1000Nm of torque in 'Power' mode.
It's labelled a "great start for the brand”, but all future cars will have a fully electric drivetrain.
The Polestar 2's production will begin later in 2019. It will be a mid-size vehicle designed to rival the Tesla Model 3.
Polestar will build its cars at a new plant in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, which already hosts a Volvo factory.
"We want to be leaders in electrification,” Volvo chief executive Hakan Samuelsson said at this week's launch event.
The launch of the first Polestar marks the latest step in a global shift towards electric vehicles which, led by China, is quickly gathering pace. Last month, the Chinese government told all carmakers, foreign and domestic, to start building EVs by 2019, having also outlined plans to ban petrol cars. Beijing is spending billions of dollars on subsidies to boost the efforts of domestic carmakers to develop EVs.
Tesla is the leading maker of electric premium vehicles, but the broader automotive industry is taking aim at the Silicon Valley upstart.
German premium brands Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Porsche are planning to launch dozens of new high-end electric vehicles and hybrids in the next few years. Maserati, Jaguar, Bentley and others are also getting in on the act.
Polestar vehicles will be available only through two or three-year subscription plans, a method some auto analysts believe could become the norm in years ahead.
"We believe that subscription is the future,” said Jonathan Goodman, Polestar's chief operating officer.