When Zsolt Zentai looks out of his office window, he sees solar panels far and wide. Solar energy is a key factor in the AUDI site Győr in Hungary becoming carbon neutral. And Zentai has an important role, as overseer of planning for the factory infrastructure and building technology. “In our factory we take every opportunity to save energy. We only install LED lights now, and we reclaim heat from the ventilation systems. Our essential energy mostly comes from renewable sources,” he said.
Zentai has not only been the driving force behind the installation of the photovoltaic system, which is the same size as about 22 football pitches. He and his team have also ensured that in Hungary, AUDI makes use of the earth’s warmth. Back in 2015, a Hungarian specialist company drilled two production wells and two back-pressure wells of around 2,500 meters in depth near the plant. Far below the earth’s surface is a source of thermal water with a temperature of around 100 degrees near Győr. The geothermal system provides 80 percent of AUDI Hungaria's own heating needs via a heat exchanger system, and also supplies heat to part of the city of Győr. “Our geothermal system works with a closed underground water circulation system, so that we don’t pollute natural resources,” said Zentai.
Zentai also lives sustainably on a personal level: When something in his home breaks, he only gets rid of it if it can’t be repaired. The 57-year-old has two children and one granddaughter. Zentai: “Perhaps it has something to do with an American Indian saying that sometimes springs to mind: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
From flowering meadow to insect hotel
As the environmental manager of the Transparent Factory, Petra Larin works in the centre of Dresden, overlooking the botanical garden. “For this reason alone, sustainability plays a major role for us. We owe it to our neighbours, ”said the graduate engineer.
Dresden, one of the production facilities for the fully electric ID.3, is one of the first climate-neutral locations in the Volkswagen Group. The Transparent Factory saves 3,600 tons of CO₂ annually, just by using natural electricity from hydropower. But it's not the big projects that are environmental manager Larin’s pride and joy. “Sustainability thrives on small contributions. This includes our flowering meadows, the insect hotels and the nesting aids for birds,” she said.
Since the Transparent Factory was founded around 20 years ago, one thing has been clear: A production location in the city centre must blend in as seamlessly as possible. Instead of fences and barriers, visitors to Dresden encounter plenty of greenery and a facade that allows you to look inside. Flowers, ponds and hundreds of trees characterise the outdoor area. “Symbiosis is our goal - this is what our collaboration with the botanical garden is all about; they help us select the most suitable plants,” said Larin. Since switching to e-mobility, the Transparent Factory has not only delivered electric cars - it also charges them with electricity from its own solar energy systems.
And ecology is important to Petra Larin in her own garden: As well as cultivating crops, she grows wildflowers, and deadwood provides a habitat for insects, amphibians and reptiles. When she is not out and about on her bike, she drives a car with hybrid drive. “Everyone can do their bit to help us achieve our climate goals. We are responsible for ensuring that the next generation has an environment worth living in,” she said.
Less food waste in catering – thanks to AI
Porsche has been piloting artificial intelligence (AI) since last year, to better plan what the canteens provide and to reduce the environmental impact of food waste and the use of potable water. Two of the minds behind the pilot project are Ulf Schnoor, Head of Catering in Weissach, and Patrick Gehe, Project Manager for Digitization & New Technologies in HR.
The basic concept: AI uses a deep learning algorithm to calculate its recommendation for the range and quantities of dishes that the Porsche canteens in Weissach, Hemmingen and Rutesheim should offer. “The AI takes various influencing factors into account, for example, previous sales volumes, calendar data and meteorological data,” explained Gehe.
“We use the new system to optimise our planning process, which enables us to significantly reduce food waste due to excess production. With 3.6 million meals sold each year, this has a huge impact – this is our contribution to protecting the climate,” said Schnoor. AI not only optimises the use of food, it also helps provide a well-balanced, healthy menu. Porsche is now using the canteen AI in all 16 canteens throughout Germany.
“We want to develop the sustainable supercell”
Electric cars are an important solution for environmentally-friendly, individual mobility – and the battery is a central component of every e-car. At the Volkswagen Group Components Center of Excellence in Salzgitter, chemist Tim Dagger is working on developing ever more powerful battery cells.
In collaboration with his colleagues, Dagger is improving the chemistry of lithium-ion cells, such as those used in the Volkswagen ID. family models. “We’re trying to develop a high-performance, inexpensive, sustainably produced supercell,” he said with a smile. His expertise is also in demand for the automotive industry of today. Converting entire factories to e-mobility requires experts who are familiar with the properties of batteries. This makes Dagger the go-to person for Volkswagen's new electrical locations as well.
Dagger has been working on lithium-ion technology since 2012. “It makes me very happy to see how this technology is now helping electric cars break into the mass market,” he said. A large number of scientific studies show that battery-powered electric cars have the best carbon footprint of all drive types.
“Climate change is one of the greatest societal challenges of our time and we are all responsible for slowing down global warming,” said Dagger. Volkswagen is taking a holistic approach to this – for example, by selling green electricity, recycling batteries and decarbonising the entire company. “All of this fits with my understanding of future-proof, sustainable mobility. I am proud that, as a battery cell developer, I can do my bit.”
ID.3 – energy consumption in kWh/100 km (NEFZ): 15.6-13.1 (combined), CO2 emissions in g/km: 0; efficiency rating: A+