Volkswagen is banking on electric cars to achieve overall carbon-neutral mobility. We explain why the energy mix is so important. And how the brand is already using and offering sustainable electricity.
Sustainable mobility with electric cars, CO2-neutral production and energy from renewable sources wherever possible – these are Volkswagen’s concrete measures to make its electric vehicles as clean as possible. Because when e-cars run on energy from coal combustion, this increases the CO2 impact and neglects potential ways to prevent CO2 emissions.
To achieve climate-neutral mobility over the long term, all signs at Volkswagen are pointing to electric mobility. In many places, electric cars are already the most climate-neutral means of individual transport. In Norway, for example, where nearly half of the cars have purely electric drives, average CO2 emissions dropped last year to just 71 grams per kilometer – compared to the European average of 118.5 grams in 2017. However, this was only possible because Norway is a “green” country – which gets nearly 100% of its energy from hydroelectric plants. And electric vehicles are only as clean as the electricity they run on. That presents a few challenges to the rest of Europe.
Vision of zero-impact factories
As a rule of thumb, the greener the energy, the greener the electric car. A lot of energy goes into producing an electric car. Generally speaking, the larger the battery and therefore the longer the e-car’s range, the more CO2 was emitted to make it. But the e-car can compensate by driving without any emissions. An e-car’s carbon footprint therefore improves the more kilometers it drives. Or to put it another way, once an electric car is made, it improves its environmental footprint with every kilometer it covers.
But a lot depends on what electricity is used to charge the battery – and in Germany it usually comes from the closest power plant. For consumers that means a mix, of which around 60 percent currently comes from non-renewable sources. Both the government and the energy industry need to make some adjustments here in order to reach climate goals.
Volkswagen has placed a priority on sustainable production for many years now. The aim is to achieve CO₂-neutral production by means of energy efficiency, energy supply and climate protection projects as well as sustainable concepts along the entire value chain – from the supply chain, production and use, to recycling.
The sustainability targets have been rising continuously for years now. Since the launch of the “Think Blue.Factory” environmental program, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 40.4 percent per car or component – compared to the baseline year of 2010. Taking all five key environmental indices under consideration – not only CO2 emissions but also energy consumption, water consumption, waste and solvent emissions – the Volkswagen brand even exceeded its target of reducing the resources used in production by 25 percent by the end of 2018. Its total environmental impact was 30 percent lower than in 2010. The target for 2025 is to reduce environmental impact by 45 percent over the same baseline. That brings us a big step closer to our vision of zero-impact factories, which means production that has no effect on the environment.
To reach these targets, each production site is pursuing its own decarbonization strategy. And successfully so. At the Zwickau site, for example, car production has risen by three percent since 2010 – while absolute CO2 emissions levels from production have dropped by 66 percent. This was made possible in large part by the use of external CO2-free green energy and highly efficient, gas-powered combined heat and power (CHP) stations that emit 23,000 fewer tons of CO2 a year than conventional power stations. In addition, the thermal energy generated by the CHP stations can be used to heat the factory instead of being discharged via cooling towers and allowed to dissipate. With supplementary investments in climate protection projects that compensate for the remaining unavoidable emissions, Volkswagen will be able to achieve overall climate-neutral production at the Zwickau site right from the start for the new I.D., which is scheduled to go onto the market in 2020.
Green electricity for our customers
A lot is being done on the customer side as well to further neutralize the CO2 footprint over the long term. With its new subsidiary Elli (Electric Life), the Volkswagen Group is offering a green electricity package to private households and small businesses throughout Germany. Elli offers both energy and charging solutions, with 100-percent green energy (Volkswagen Naturstrom®) from renewable sources. The electricity comes from hydro and other sources, and is certified by the TÜV technical inspection association. By building and operating two wind energy stations on its grounds in Salzgitter, Volkswagen will also be contributing its own energy in the future. Other solutions are expected to be offered in conjunction with the market launch of the I.D. in 2020 and beyond, such as intelligent energy rates, wallboxes and charging columns as well as an IT-based energy management system. Starting at the end of 2019, a charging card (We Charge) is also expected to be made available Europe-wide.
Digitally connecting energy and mobility
Elli wants to connect the areas of energy and mobility in digital ways. It is convinced that electric mobility can only be truly sustainable if e-cars are run on energy generated without any CO2 emissions. Because if we are to reach the climate targets, e-cars will have to run on green energy. “As one of the world’s largest carmakers, Volkswagen will be accelerating the pace of the urgently needed transport and energy transition to emission-neutral electric mobility. The new company will help by providing renewable energy and smart charging solutions,” says Thomas Ulbrich, Member of the Board of Management responsible for E-Mobility. Thorsten Nicklass, Elli’s designated CEO, adds, “With our Naturstrom product we want to make green energy simple and affordable – and establish ourselves as a reliable partner for innovative and sustainable energy solutions for private households and electric vehicles.”