Volvo’s Polestar brand is assembling prototypes of its first plug-in hybrid sports car

Polestar has started assembling verification prototypes of its upcoming plug-in hybrid sports car as Volvo’s standalone electric performance brand prepares to produce customer cars next year.

Verification prototypes of the Polestar 1 vehicle, which are built largely by hand, mark the first testing phase for production. The vehicles will be crashed and driven through different kinds of weather and on-road conditions — the kinds of tests that help engineers identify problems and tune the car.

The company plans to build 34 of these vehicles at a prototype production facility in Gothenburg, Sweden. Polestar will likely pay particular attention to how the carbon-fiber body of the vehicle holds up under testing. This is the first time that a brand in the Volvo Car Group has explored carbon fiber construction, according to Polestar, which noted that the company had to develop new equipment and use new construction techniques.

Polestar 1 verification prototype

That equipment will be transferred to its new factory in Chengdu, China, where customer cars will be produced.

Polestar plans to start production of the Polestar 1 in mid-2019, according to Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath.

The company has said it will produce about 500 Polestar 1 vehicles in the first full year of production. About 200 of those $155,000 vehicles are destined for North America.

Polestar was once a high-performance brand under Volvo Cars. In 2017, the company was recast as an electric performance brand aimed at producing exciting and fun-to-drive electric vehicles — a niche that Tesla was the first to fill and has dominated ever since. Volvo has said it plans to invest more than $750 million into Polestar.

The Polestar 1 is the first model of the electric brand. However, the Polestar 1 is not a pure electric vehicle; it’s a plug-in hybrid with two electrical motors powered by three 34 kilowatt-hour battery packs and a turbo and supercharged gas inline 4 up front.

Ingenlath views this initial model as a “bridge” to pure EVs. The Polestar 2 will be the company’s first all-electric vehicle and is designed to compete with Tesla Model 3. The Polestar 2 will be revealed early in 2019, with production starting a year later.