The Volkswagen Group’s logisticians work with big numbers when it comes to rail transports. When operations are running normally, they send more than 190,000 carriages via the German rail network with DB Cargo each year. More than half of these carriages transport material to the plants, with almost 40 long-distance trains and 160 local trains making these journeys every day. Across Europe, around 1.4 million tonnes of material are transported by rail with DB Cargo each year. In Germany, 100 percent of the energy DB Cargo uses for Volkswagen is green on electrified tracks, under the “DBeco plus” branding – for this, Deutsche Bahn feeds energy from wind farms and hydroelectric power stations into the overhead line.
In normal operation, approximately 90,000 carriages transport around 900,000 vehicles of the brands Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Audi, Škoda, SEAT, Porsche and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles from the plants. Their destinations are 40 hubs, importer bases and sea ports. The trains are up to 700 metres in length, are made up of an average of 22 carriages and can transport between around 220 and 260 cars. The direct connections between the plants in Neckarsulm and Ingolstadt and the Port of Emden are the most heavily used routes. Simply by transporting vehicles by rail, using DB Cargo’s green energy, the Volkswagen Group saves around 14,800 tonnes of CO2 each year compared with the regular traction power mix.
However, most of the trains between the production sites in Germany transport material: Up to 15 trains travel between the hubs of Braunschweig and Ingolstadt alone each week, for example, with carriages from the Braunschweig, Wolfsburg and Ingolstadt sites.
Transports with green energy: Volkswagen is leading the way in Europe
“Our green energy offensive is a key element of our strategy for sustainable logistics,” explained Simon Motter, Head of Volkswagen Group Logistics. “We are focussing on a variety of concepts. In collaboration with our partners, we are continuing to work intensely on expanding combined road and rail transport operations, to get even more goods on the tracks.”
Dr. Sigrid Evelyn Nikutta, Board Member for Freight Transport at Deutschen Bahn AG and Chair of DB Cargo AG, talks about the environmental benefits: “With green energy from DBeco plus, our trains are carbon-neutral. We are using green energy that comes exclusively from renewable energy sources in Germany. This provides our customers with green supply chains and reduces CO2 emissions sustainably.”
2010 premiere: Audi’s “Green Train”
The Volkswagen Group is already familiar with sustainable rail transport. Back in 2010, AUDI and DB Cargo launched the “Green Train”, which transports up to 150,000 cars between Ingolstadt and Emden each year using green energy. Dieter Braun, head of the supply chain at Audi, said: “We have continued to expand this pioneering work since 2010, for example, through routes between Neckarsulm and Emden and within Austria. Together with Deutsche Bahn we have managed to move more transport operations from the road to the tracks.”
Fuel from agricultural waste: Pilot project with Bio-LNG
The Volkswagen Group is making an ever greater commitment to sustainability when it comes to road transports as well. As part of a pilot project, three Scania lorries running on Bio-LNG fuel are driving containers with vehicle and car parts from the packing station in Soltau to the Port of Hamburg. Bio-LNG is methane with a biogenic origin, which becomes liquid in temperatures below minus 161 degrees Celsius. The primary raw material is agricultural waste. “So, the fuel is not competing with the cultivation and use of food for human and animal consumption,” said Enno Fehse, head of material logistics in Group Logistics. “Its sustainability is certified by the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food in line with the Nabisy system for sustainable biomass.”
The Bio-LNG that the Volkswagen Group is using in this project has huge potential to reduce CO2 emissions. Compared with fossil diesel, the biogas used in this project reduces carbon emissions by more than 80 percent in the well-to-wheel analysis, which takes the production of the fuel into account. When the Scania lorries burn Bio-LNG in their six-cylinder gas engines, they produce an output of up to 302 kW (410 PS) and a maximum torque of 2,000 Nm.
The Volkswagen Group Logistics’ pilot project is initially limited to one year. The project partners are Scania, energy company Shell and the Emden-based forwarding agent Weets.
Fabian Ziegler, Managing Director of Shell Germany, said: “The pilot project with selected partners highlights our ambitions to develop Bio-LNG to such an extent that it can become a long-term solution for the transport industry. Our collaboration with Volkswagen is contributing to decarbonisation and proves that new concepts work and have positive effects on climate targets. It’s very promising and will help the industry move to new solutions in the near future.”
Long-term, Volkswagen is also working on electrifying its commercial vehicles to further decarbonise road transports. Simon Motter outlines the Volkswagen Group’s position: “With carbon-neutral rail transport and the first steps towards Bio-LNG for road transport, we are making an important contribution to decarbonising the Group, which is aiming to be net-zero carbon neutral by 2050.”
ID.3 – combined power consumption in kWh/100 km (NEDC): 15.4-14.5, CO2 emissions in g/km: 0; efficiency class: A