Polestar chief calls ‘bullshit’ on German anti-EV rhetoric
German designer-turned-OEM chief pulls no punches
Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Sweden’s Polestar EV pure play, is a self-identified proud German, to the extent of still subscribing to German newspapers and watching German news programmes each evening after 13 years in Sweden.
But, despite a heritage of over a decade at his native Volkswagen prior to his move to Gothenburg, his view on the reluctance of his home country’s reluctance to fully embrace the reality of the BEV revolution is coruscating.
"I closely follow the politics, economics and culture in my country, Germany. And sometimes I do this with disbelief," he says.
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And, in a speech to the IAA Mobility conference in Munich, Ingenlath singled out a recently published interview with Hans-Werner Sinn — former president of Germany’s Ifo Institute for Economic Research and current German economy ministry advisory council member. In it, Ingenlath bemoans, Sinn claimed that EVs are i) accelerating climate change; ii) banning ICEs is ruining the German auto industry and lowering the country’s standard of living; and iii) increasing oil consumption in other countries.
Sinn’s suggestions that EVs mean more coal production and more CO2 emissions, and that there is not enough renewable energy production to mean green e-mobility, also attract Ingenlath’s attention. “So, let us abandon these useless policies and wait while others catch up,” the Polestar chief characterises the veteran German economist’s views.
“I am sorry, but I think this is bullshit,” Ingenlath said, to a Munich crowd that responded with applause, albeit perhaps with a slightly delayed shock brought on by such plain speaking.
So you know what Thomas Ingenlath wouldn't think is bullshit ... that's our neswsletter ... we hope ... Seriously though, as an independent media publication in 2023 we have to grow to survive. Please support EV inFocus by signing up.
Ingenlath’s logic is simple — that the passenger vehicle industry, on current projections, is due to have spent its entire CO2 budget, as per the Paris Agreement 1.5°C limit, by 2035, and overshoot limits by at least 75pc by 2050.
“Unlike other sectors, we are lucky, because we have a solution,” says Ingenlath. “A scalable climate solution exists, and that is the battery electric car.
“Oil consumption increases only to meet demand. The electric car is not perfect and is not enough on its own. But it is key how to transfer ourselves into a modern, high-tech economy,” he continues.
And he had even more raw truths. “Clinging to the past of the combustion engine will only hold us back. And the open technology approach? Sorry, but it is a fig leaf, an excuse for inaction,” Ingenlath warns.
“The cost of inaction will ultimately be a much higher price to pay, because it will allow others to take the lead and for us to fall further behind. The challenges that Germany faces today are not because transition to a digital green economy is too fast. It is because it is too slow.
“Instead of doubling down on our reputation for being slow-moving, polluting and opaque, what if our industry turns its extraordinary engineering skills and capital towards a truly sustainable innovation?” the Polestar chief asks.
Exploiting the situation
Other sins of those clinging stubbornly to fossil fuels are also in Ingenlath's sights, including "disinformation that aims to keep the status quo". Amid a cost-of-living crisis and debates over who should pay for the energy transition, "the fossil fuel lobby [is] of course profiting from the situation and spreading doubt about whether EVs are the way forward", he continues.
"Carbon capture will save the day, lithium ion batteries have serious shortcomings and that cannot be solved, or maybe we should bet on hydrogen instead," Ingenlath parrots the BEV naysayers.
"But our actions as business leaders are more important than ever here. We have to resist that temptation to stick with the old ways. Decarbonisation cannot be wished away, and in the next 10 years we must reinvent all our technology to run an industry and a society with zero CO2 emissions."
And he returns to the theme that this should be viewed as an opportunity for the auto industry, not a threat. For Germany, it represents, in his view. the chance "to embrace its world-leading engineering and make this decade a golden age". "I believe that this is the only option," Ingenlath concludes.