Stuart Templar has led an exciting career, both before and since his move into the world of emobility. A former diplomat, he has travelled extensively from post-war Yugoslavia to the perilous roads of Romania, before settling in his current home in Gothenburg where he now works as Volvo Cars’ Director, Global Sustainability.
Naturally, Stuart’s role sees him work closely with the brand’s new battery electric range but, as far as he’s concerned, eliminating emissions at the tailpipe is just a step – albeit an important one – on the road towards sustainable roads.
Stuart talked us through what brought him to Sweden, his personal passion for sustainability and Volvo’s pioneering work to decarbonise their vehicles across the entire supply chain.
EDs: Can you tell us a little bit about your career before joining Volvo Cars?
Before I joined Volvo in 2016, I worked as a diplomat for the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Foreign Office) for 15 years. It was an exciting, varied and challenging job and enabled me to be involved in global issues and events, something I’ve always been interested in.
During my time, among other things, I advised two Ministers for Europe, worked in post-war former Yugoslavia and helped establish a global marketing campaign to promote Britain around the 2012 Olympics.
I’m particularly proud that I survived two years driving in Romania without being involved in a car crash. At the time accident rates were 40 times higher than in Western Europe. However, as a Manchester lad, my highlight was undoubtedly meeting one of my heroes, Sir Alex Ferguson.
EDs: Did your time at the Foreign Office pave the way for your journey into the automotive industry, or was it more of a fresh start?
It was more of a fresh start. To be honest, I never intended to work for a car company, although during my school years, I was an avid reader of Autocar. It’s a well-worn cliché but love brought me to Gothenburg and the beautiful Swedish West Coast.
I met my Swedish partner, who now works for Polestar, at a wedding in Bucharest, and the rest is history – a real ‘Sliding Doors’ moment. I was attracted to Volvo due to its strong global reputation for safety and its ambitious plans, as well as the fact it is Sweden’s greatest exports possibly after Abba.
EDs: What made you want to work in sustainability?
The fact that global industry cannot continue operating the way it has been for over 150 years if the world is to become a liveable and fairer place for future generations. It must change.
This includes not only limiting value chain carbon emissions but also making far better use of finite materials and acting more responsibly and ethically. I want to play a small role in helping shift the dial.
EDs: Was this what motivated you to move into the automotive industry?
Yes, the challenge appealed to me. Our industry is a contributor to many of the sustainable development issues that the world faces.
For example, road transport is still responsible for around 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. We are part of the problem of climate change and have a responsibility to be part of the solution.
That’s why Volvo Cars is aiming to be a climate-neutral company by 2040, in line with the goal of the Paris Agreement. It’s why we are planning to sell only fully electric vehicles in all regions, with no caveats, by 2030.
However, electrification alone is not the silver bullet to addressing the industry’s climate impact. Our own assessments of the carbon impact of our XC40 and C40 BEVs have revealed that production emissions can be up to 70 percent greater than for an equivalent internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.
The overall carbon footprint can be reduced by up to a third if renewable electricity is used to charge rather than electricity from a European (EU28) mix.
EDs: Do carmakers need to reduce emissions throughout the process cycle of producing a car?
We, and other automakers, need to reduce emissions across the electric vehicle value chain, while electric car owners should charge with renewable energy to help ensure they reach their full climate potential.
We’re making some good progress, including through our partnerships with Northvolt to produce batteries using renewable energy and with SSAB to use fossil-free steel in our cars.
The carbon assessments (LCAs) of our battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are accessible to our customers via our website. We believe that manufacturers should be transparent about the carbon impact of EVs to help consumers make informed decisions. One of my bugbears is when EVs are referred to as zero emission, they’re not.
EDs: From an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) perspective, are there any major advances in emobility that you’re expecting to see in the next five years?
We’re expecting to see continued strong growth in EV ownership. Sales of our own electrified vehicles (Recharge range) grew by 63 percent last year, accounting for 27 percent of global sales and 51 percent in Europe alone.
With this growth, owning an EV needs to be made as convenient as possible. So, we hope we’ll see a rapid expansion of public, fast-charging infrastructure, not least to overcome range anxiety. In addition, we expect the charging experience to become more user-friendly and cheaper.
That includes greater pricing transparency, more accurate mapping of points and smart charging availability. Increased governmental investment and tighter regulation will play an important role in achieving this.
In addition, we expect to see advancements in vehicle-to-grid technology which could help improve the overall CO2 footprint and total cost of ownership. We’re sure there’ll also be exciting progress in terms of battery development.
EDs: What role might Volvo Cars play in this process?
Unsurprisingly, there’s only so much I can say here but we’re already working to make the charging experience easier for our customers. For example, we use Google Maps to help them find stations.
We’re also collaborating with Plugsurfing to enable access to 250,000 charging points across Europe, including heavily reduced prices at Ionity fast-charging stations.
We’ll also continue working closely with our suppliers to improve battery design, density and energy efficiency to further increase range and look to introduce vehicle-to-grid (V2G) functionality.
In addition, we’ll focus on extending the battery life for as long as possible, as well as remanufacturing and recycling batteries to ensure we make better use of the valuable material within them.
EDs: What would be your dream electric vehicle to drive and why?
A fully electric P1800. In my opinion, it epitomises timeless design and still looks as cool today as when it was first launched in 1960. One of the most beautiful cars ever made. And as an S Templar working for Volvo, what other car could there be?