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  6. What you need to know about CO₂

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What you need to know about CO₂

The debate about how to effectively reduce CO₂ emissions is ongoing. What exactly is carbon dioxide? Who is responsible for emitting the most emissions? What is the Volkswagen Group doing in order to protect the environment? And what about the current suggestions regarding speed limits or higher fuel prices? We clarify.

What is CO₂ exactly?

Despite the amount of discussion and column inches generated, CO2 remains extremely discreet: Carbon dioxide is an odourless, non-flammable, colourless and non-poisonous gas – a natural component of air – among nitrogen, oxygen and certain noble gases. The „C“ stands for the chemical element carbon, the „O“ for oxygen and the 2 stands for the two oxygen atoms combined with one carbon atom – that’s why we call it carbon dioxide.

CO2 belongs to the greenhouse gases, responsible for the earth’s atmosphere and consequently capable of storing heat produced by the sun. Without those greenhouse gases, the energy would be reflected so that flora and fauna how we know it couldn’t exist – as well as us humans.

Carbon dioxide is produced by living creatures when breathing as well as through the combustion of wood, coal, oil, or gas, by the decomposition of dead organisms or through the release from volcanos. CO2 therefore belongs to our atmosphere. The proportion is relatively low: there is 0.038 per cent CO2 in the air. Nature itself produces about 96 per cent of this. The remaining 4 per cent, is produced by humans. However, due to the industrial evolution over the last centuries, the share of carbon dioxide in the air is increasing – strengthening the greenhouse effect and thus influencing the climate leading to global warming of our planet.

The Volkswagen Group is therefore researching new technologies that produce less or even no CO2 at all. This involves not only emissions, engines and powertrains but the whole production of vehicles and the question of what to do with the vehicles once determined inoperable? An important factor is the energy mix used for powering the Volkswagen Group production sites, as well as the energy mix used for charging electric cars. The greener the electricity being consumed is, the less CO2 is being released into the atmosphere – and the better it will be for us humans and the environment.

Which drives produce the most CO₂?

Petrol powered vehicles give rise to the highest CO2 emissions within passenger vehicle drivetrains - regarding vehicle operation, combined with the values both from production of the vehicle and fuel economy.  


The production of diesel vehicles emits more CO2 than vehicles fitted with a petrol engine but it is being compensated for by lower emissions through an increased fuel economy and vehicle operation. As a rule of thumb, depending on the model, the fuel economy is on average, between 15 and 20 per cent more fuel economical.

Also in comparison with natural gas engines, diesels achieve a higher CO2 balance. This is primarily due to the fact that diesel fuel supply has lower CO2 emissions than natural gas supply.  

On a global scale, China emits the most carbon dioxide, followed by the United States, India, Russia and Japan. Germany ranks in sixth place. Source: Global Carbon Atlas

What are Volkswagen Group doing?

The Volkswagen Group works essentially in two areas to reduce CO2 emissions: On the one hand, the company is beginning with full-scale, mass market production of e-mobility vehicles, for the first time. With the launch of the ID. family later this year, the Group will be the first manufacturer to offer a wide range of all-electric compact, small and luxury vehicles to a broad market. At the same time, the Group continues to optimise its petrol and diesel engines, as well as developing numerous hybrid models.

In detail: 

  • By 2025, the Volkswagen Group will launch a total of 50 new e-models to the market, manufactured at facilities in Europe, China and the USA.
  • By 2023, the Group will be investing 44 billion euros in e-mobility and future technologies. With the CO2 target of 95 grams by 2020/21, the Group is well on its way to achieving its ambitious target - and is making considerable efforts to achieve that. Source: Volkswagen Group
  • Newly registered passenger cars from the Volkswagen Group now consume 25 per cent less fuel than in 2007. Source: Volkswagen Group
  • According to official data from the German Motor Vehicle Federation (KBA), last year Volkswagen was the largest manufacturer of new pure electric car registrations in Germany. In 2018, 6,799 fully electric Volkswagen passenger vehicles were registered in Germany, out of a total of 36,062 pure-electric passenger cars. This means that Volkswagen accounted for 18.9 per cent of this future segment. Source: Kraftfahrzeugbundesamt
  • Over the past 15 years, the Volkswagen Group has reduced pollutant emissions from diesel and petrol engines by 84 per cent 60 per cent, respectively.
  • The CO2 balance of the diesel engine is 15 per cent lower than that of other combustion engines. Comparable fuel savings in hybrid vehicles can only be achieved with much greater technical effort.
  • The latest generation of diesel engines (EA288 evo) from the Volkswagen Group have even lower emission levels and reduce consumption and CO2 emissions by a further 10 per cent. Source: Volkswagen Group

But it is not only low-consumption engines and all-electric models that serve the goal of saving CO2. It is just as important for the Volkswagen Group to conserve resources at the production stage. For this reason, the company also uses sustainable materials everywhere, such as renewable raw materials. The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions over the entire value chain and lifecycle.

The Group is driving forward many other environmental projects. For example, the CO2-neutral Volkswagen renewable electricity comes from hydroelectric power plants in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Just in time for the launch of the ID. family, Volkswagen will also be offering "Volks-Wallboxes" for charging at home. While the car is charged with 3.7 kilowatts (kW) via the normal 230V power grid, the Wallbox for the ID. and Co. operates with charging capacities of up to 11kW. If the domestic power connection is capable of such a power consumption, the battery will be 100 per cent charged overnight. The Volkswagen Group will also be extensively involved in charging at destinations such as company car parks and shopping centres. This will initially include the expansion of charging points at Volkswagen employee car parks from the current 1,000 to more than 5,000 charging stations by 2020, as well as equipping all 4,000 dealers and service partners in the EU with several charging options by 2020. In the fleet business, the Group will act as a partner to the brands and support their customers in converting their fleets to electromobility. Even companies without a fleet of company cars can request advice on the topics of energy and charging infrastructure - especially with regard to installation, operation and service. Source: Volkswagen Group

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