During the visit of the Volkswagen Sustainability Council, the Zwickau facility demonstrates how much the transition to climate-friendly e-mobility is transforming the location. The independent experts are impressed.
Long lines of new electric car chassis float through hall number five. Employees in blue shirts assemble components and monitor processes. One of them pushes a trolley alongside the production line. On large electrical panels, employees can check at any time how many cars they have already built during the current shift – and how many more will follow. Interim balance: Everything on track.
Here at the Zwickau plant, series production of the fully electric ID.3 has been underway since November 2019 – an important step on Volkswagen’s path to becoming a climate-neutral company. More than 100,000 electric cars are to be produced in Zwickau this year already. In 2021, capacity will rise to 330,000 electric vehicles.
Zwickau is the second location ever where a volume manufacturer, such as Volkswagen, is converting entirely to e-mobility, and the first site to go into mass production. Gesche Joost, member of the independent Sustainability Council, calls this transformation “impressive”. Since 2016, the council has been advising Volkswagen on topics such as sustainable mobility, environmental protection, digitalization and the future of work. “We have another company in front of us,” Joost sums up. From the very beginning, the Advisory Board has also been involved in the development of the new e-models – now it is eager to see the cars on the road.
Volkswagen is investing more than 1.2 billion euros in the conversion of the Zwickau plant into one of the most efficient e-car factories in Europe. Series production of the ID.3 and the preproduction series for the ID. 4 have already been operating on one of two production lines since the end of 2019. The second production line will also be converted from this summer on, so that Zwickau will become a pure electric location from 2021, reports Matthias Bursig, Managing Director of Finance and Controlling at Volkswagen Sachsen. “Here at the Zwickau site, Volkswagen’s e-offensive is starting.”
By 2029, the company plans to launch up to 75 pure e-models and an additional 60 or so hybrid vehicles across the Group. Investments totaling 33 billion euros are planned for this by 2024 alone.
With more than 10,000 employees, Volkswagen is the largest employer in the German region of Saxony. The responsibility is consequentially large. “We are taking all our employees with us,” emphasizes Dirk Coers, Managing Director for Human Resources and Organization.
In concrete terms, this means that 8,000 employees at the Zwickau site will be trained in electric mobility. So far, 2,000 production employees alone have passed through the e-mobility training center. More than 1,500 employees have acquired the so-called high-voltage license, so that by the end of 2019 the team had completed around 13,000 training days. “We are Volkswagen Group’s largest training hub,” says Coers.
Sustainability Council member Michael Sommer describes the qualification of the employees as “exemplary”, but also necessary. The former chairman of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) said that employees’ fears must be allayed.
The first ID.3 vehicles will be delivered to customers in the summer. Among other things, customers will benefit from intuitive usability, dynamic driving behavior, numerous assistance systems and ranges of up to 550 kilometers. But the environment also benefits – because the ID.3 rolls off the production line in Zwickau in a CO2-neutral manner. This is made possible – among other things – by the fact that both the battery cell manufacturing process, and the vehicle production line, both run on 100 percent green electricity.
“The CO2 emissions per vehicle at the Zwickau site have more than halved within ten years,” CFO Bursig reports to the members of the Sustainability Council. To achieve this, Volkswagen has tightened many screws. “For example, we will expand the press shop that enables us to manufacture additional components directly on site,” says Bursig. The advantage: climate-damaging transport routes are eliminated. Volkswagen offsets unavoidable CO2 emissions by supporting climate protection projects.
But it is also the smaller initiatives that are transforming the Zwickau location. Among other things, employees have planted fruit trees, and more than 400,000 bees produce “VW honey” on the factory premises. The aim: to firmly anchor environmental protection in the consciousness. “It should be visible at all times how important the subject of sustainability is to us,” says Bursig. This is another reason why there is a solar system right at the entrance to the plant. There is an electric charging station right next to it. On one wall there is a short sentence that could signify the change for the whole location: Vision becomes reality.
* ID.3: The vehicle is not yet offered for sale in Europe