Volvo unveiled a vision of its future Polestar brand Tuesday, introducing a high-performance hybrid sedan aimed at the increasingly crowded segment of an electrified-car market that includes Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi.

Volvo is one of several automakers to signal that at some point in the not-so-distant future all of its models will be “electrified”—meaning they’ll have battery electric, gas-electric hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mazda are some of the automakers that have recently announced plans to electrify all or parts of their vehicle lineups.

“Society is changing,” Polestar Chief Executive Officer Thomas Ingenlath told an audience in Shanghai. “Cars emitting exhaust fumes will become just as unacceptable as smoking is in a public restaurant. I’m totally convinced the future of mobility is electric.”  

More on Going Electric

Arriving in 2019, Volvo says, the 600-horsepower Polestar 1 will drive up to 93 miles on batteries alone, about 75 percent farther than the Chevrolet Volt, and Volvo claims that’s the longest pure-electric range of any plug-in hybrid. Like the Tesla Model S or new models coming from automakers including Audi and Mercedes, Polestar cars will combine their electric drives with a fine-tuned level of performance, lots of creature comforts, and what’s sure to be a high price tag.

Volvo gleaned insights from the Polestar racing team in refining the suspension and transmission of the new electric sedan. The car has a continuously controlled electronic suspension and a double-electric rear axle, which Volvo says enables the car to transfer engine torque to the wheels individually.

The 600 hp is combined with 737 lb.-ft. of torque. A carbon-fiber body lowers the car’s center of gravity to improve its handling, Volvo says. In another cue from racing, the car will have a retractable rear spoiler. 

Volvo Polestar 1 electric coupe interior

Why All the Electrification?

The sudden industry onslaught of battery-electric and hybrid vehicles comes as the U.S. government seems to be backing off policies favoring alternative forms of energy in favor of traditional fossil fuels. That's not likely to slow the trend toward greener vehicles, said AutoPacific analyst Ed Kim, since China has replaced the U.S. as the biggest and most influential car market.

"Automakers view the industry in a global sense, and while the U.S. for the moment isn't pushing hard for electrification, other world governments are,"  Kim said. 

The Polestar 1 will only be sold online and can only be purchased through Volvo’s subscription program, which will move the new brand “away from today’s traditional ownership model,” the company says. Consumers will be given the choice of a two- or three-year subscription with no deposit required upfront.

The automaker first announced a subscription approach when it rolled out its upcoming XC40 SUV. Volvo is expected to discuss pricing for its subscription model for the XC40 at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month.

The “all-inclusive subscription” will be something like a lease with concierge services. Polestar will notify customers when it’s time for maintenance and will arrange the pickup and a loaner car if needed. Polestar will use the phone app to unlock the car and put the loaner in its place. Customers will get a certain number of rental days in their contracts, included as part of their monthly payment. That will enable customers on a trip to pick up the Polestar or Volvo vehicle of their choice at their destination. Volvo didn’t go into pricing details Tuesday.

“This concierge service ensures that the customer only needs to focus on the enjoyment of driving,” Volvo said. “Having a Polestar car becomes a hassle-free experience.”

Consumers can lay down orders for the Polestar 1 now, even though deliveries won’t happen until 2019. Volvo wasn’t specific about delivery dates.

The car will be built at a new factory in Chengdu, China. That facility is also under construction and won’t be complete until the middle of 2018. Polestar 1 will be tested, fine-tuned and refined throughout next year before production begins in 2019.

Also Tuesday, Volvo said the second car for the Polestar brand, Polestar 2, will start production later in 2019 and will be Volvo Car Group’s first all-electric vehicle. That vehicle, like the Tesla Model 3, will be a more mainstream car, Ingenlath said.

The third vehicle for the brand, Polestar 3, will be a larger, SUV-style battery-electric with a low roofline and a “powerful body,” Ingenlath said. No details were announced about the production timing of that model.

Volvo Polestar 1 electric coupe rear