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  6. Transporting More Sustainably: Green Logistics at Volkswagen

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Transporting More Sustainably: Green Logistics at Volkswagen

Natural gas-powered ships and natural gas-powered trucks: Volkswagen Group Logistics is putting its money on sustainability. In 2019 two transport ships with LNG drive systems will begin plying the world’s seas for the Logistics division. The two ships recently went into production. At the same time, Group Logistics is preparing the deployment of LNG trucks as more than 100 Scania LNG trucks are slated to hit the roads of northern Germany. As a result, the logistics division will be getting greener and greener as part of the “TOGETHER – Strategy 2025”.

Less CO2, less nitrogen oxide and almost zero particulate matter: LNG stands for Liquified Natural Gas. It is cooled to -162 degrees Celsius and then transferred in a liquid physical state. Trucks and ships in particular benefit from the low-cost, environmentally friendly and efficient power provided by natural gas.
The Volkswagen Group is one of the first vehicle manufacturers to invest in low-emission LNG drive systems in ships. From 2019 onwards, two chartered ships powered by LNG will transport Volkswagen Group vehicles between Europe and North America. Production on the two ships begins on March 10. The LNG ships built by Siem Car Carriers AS will be 200 meters long, enabling them to carry around 4,500 vehicles per ship. This means that they will have a capacity similar to conventional long-haul ships with standard drive systems. The new ships will replace two of the nine ships powered by heavy fuel oil that currently make up the Volkswagen fleet. The ships’ alternative natural-gas-powered systems will reduce harmful emissions over the long term – carbon dioxide by up to 25 percent, nitrogen oxide by up to 30 percent, particulate matter by up to 60 percent and sulfur oxide by practically 100 percent. The two vehicle transporters will be powered by a 12,600-kW engine developed by MAN Diesel & Turbo.

Ninety-Five Percent Less Nitrogen Oxide

The LNG carriers can complete the entire round trip from Europe to North America and back without refueling

In the reduction of emissions, a transition towards environmentally friendlier modes of transport plays a key role. “We transport around 5.6 million vehicles per year. Over two million of these are transported by boat,” says Markus Lange, Head of Vehicle Logistics for the Group. Ship-based transportation was therefore seen as a key means of reducing emissions in the long-term. “Besides using LNG as an alternative source of fuel for ships, we are also working on other projects to improve the environmental compatibility of our logistics chain on an ongoing basis,” Lange further points out.

Volkswagen Group Logistics is also investing in LNG-based trucks. Over 100 Scania LNG trucks will soon be setting off over the roads of northern Germany. As part of this process, freight forwarders will receive support in purchasing the vehicles. New LNG refueling stations will also be built. Scania trucks with LNG drive systems emit up to 20% less CO2 compared to similar models with diesel engines. If the trucks are run on regional and local biogas, CO2 emissions can fall by as much as 90 percent. As well as improving CO2 emissions, the trucks also release up to 95 percent less nitrogen oxide. The combustion process produces less soot, providing yet another benefit: Particulate matter is eliminated almost completely (-95 percent). What’s more, combustion noise is cut in half when compared to diesel-powered trucks.

Green Logistics Initiative

Scania trucks with LNG drive systems emit up to 20% less CO2 compared to similar models with diesel engines

At the moment, LNG-powered trucks are only planned for use in material logistics for the transportation of vehicle components. In vehicle logistics, design obstacles have yet to be overcome. However, truck manufacturers like the subsidiary Scania are already working with trailer manufacturers to develop concepts for storing the tank. “I’m optimistic that in future we’ll see the first LNG-powered truck for vehicle logistics,” says Markus Lange.

This drive towards the use of LNG-powered ships and trucks is part of the Volkswagen Group Logistics’ Green Logistics Initiative. This is based on the “TOGETHER – Strategy 2025”, the Volkswagen Group’s commitment to responsible stewardship of the environment and the ongoing reduction of emissions. The goal of the Green Logistics Initiative is to create a sustainable logistics chain within the Volkswagen Group. As part of the initiative, material and vehicle transport processes will be optimized on an ongoing basis with a view to finding the most efficient use of capacity and avoiding empty journeys. “This is an important task when it comes to avoiding empty journeys,” says Matthias Biedenkopf, Head of Transport Network for Group Logistics. “We don’t want to transport air.” There are standardized packaging options that can be expanded to make full use of the truck’s loading volume. “Furthermore, we are developing our distribution centers in line with green criteria, including in terms of power and heat supply,” says Biedenkopf. This, too, is part of a responsible approach to the environment.