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Using blockchain traceability to build a circular battery economy

Following on from their joint presentation at the Future Battery Forum 2022, Ellen Carey, Vice President of Global Policy and Public Affairs at Circulor, and Fredrika Klarén, Global Head of Sustainability at Polestar, discuss the successful collaboration between their two companies, and how blockchain traceability will play a key role in the production of Polestar’s climate-neutral car.

It’s no secret that we are in the midst of a rampant climate crisis. In fact, it’s all a lot of us are talking about. As relatively young businesses, it’s clear to both Polestar and Circulor that there are solutions out there that can affect real, meaningful change. Electric vehicles are one of the most powerful climate solutions today—but also one of the most under-utilized. Only 1.5% of cars on the road globally are electrified, which begs the question: How do we fulfill the promise of EVs to deliver sustainable mobility?

The response at Polestar has been to set a progressive sustainability strategy, which is built on the four pillars of climate neutrality, circularity, transparency and inclusion. The heart of the company’s sustainability work is its work with lifecycle assessments. When Polestar developed Polestar 2, it developed a lifecycle assessment methodology with Volvo, which showed us that we have to stop talking about tailpipe emissions and stop investing in legacy technology, and instead start focusing on production-related emissions and environmental and social impacts. That’s why Polestar set itself three climate targets: to become climate neutral company by 2040; to halve emissions per sold car by 2030 compared to 2022; and create a climate neutral car by 2030.

The truth is that we have to reduce GHG emissions within this decade. The automotive industry is often talking about what will happen post 2030, but this can’t be the focus. We need to create a sense of urgency around bending the curve this decade; we need to find a way to produce cars in a climate neutral way this decade so that production can be scaled up next decade.

The Polestar 0 car—which will be a commercial car, not a concept car—will have net zero emissions when it rolls out of the factory and will not rely on offsetting. Instead, Polestar’s focus will be on eliminating emissions and changing the way it makes cars.

In order for Polestar to prove that it has reached carbon neutrality, traceability will be absolutely key. There are so many challenges in the mining industry, which is known for corruption, environmental pollution and human rights violations. That’s why Polestar will trace all of the materials it uses in its cars to ensure responsible sourcing, and that’s where the team at Circulor comes in.

Our companies have been working together for a few years now and that work started with Circulor tracking cobalt for the Polestar 2. As the Polestar portfolio has expanded, so has the Circulor partnership, with the company now tracking mica, lithium and nickel.

Circulor’s blockchain traceability platform traces complex industrial supply chains from raw or recycled materials through production to final product by creating a digital twin of the material itself at source and connecting all supply chain participants together in order to create accountability. The platform collects CO2 across Scope 1, 2, and 3, as well as ESG metrics, and attaches this activity from every participant to the product itself. This provides proof to OEMs like Polestar and their customers that those minerals and materials are responsibly, ethically and sustainably produced.

We can all see that there is growing demand for proof of what is in our batteries and our vehicles. In the US, the Clean Vehicle Tax Credit calls for automakers to provide proof of where they are sourcing their critical minerals and manufacturing their battery components, while the upcoming EU Battery Regulation will focus on proof of sourcing, responsible provenance, chain of custody, recycled materials and embedded carbon.

It’s clear that we need to create a circular battery economy in order to build a responsible, electrified future. What is also clear to us is that traceability is the answer, and we predict that it won’t be long before this is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but a key business imperative.


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