With all the metalworking, welding, painting and assembly work that goes on, it’s hardly surprising that car manufacturing impacts on the environment. Volkswagen is well aware of its responsibility here. That’s why we are aiming to reduce the environmental impact per vehicle produced by 45 percent compared to 2010 in terms of energy and water consumption, waste, and emissions of CO2 and solvents. Through projects like this one:
How Volkswagen has become a pioneer in efforts to phase out coal
For almost 80 years, the power station beside the harbor at Volkswagen’s facilities in Wolfsburg has generated power from hard coal. Together with the West power station, also in Wolfsburg, this station currently supplies power to all the northern German plants of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brands. The two cogeneration plants also supply district heat to the automobile plant itself and the city of Wolfsburg – and soon, plant operation is to become more environmentally compatible because Volkswagen is replacing coal with natural gas.
For some time now, the four power station chimneys have provided a contrasting backdrop to the busy scenes of the Autostadt. A new, environmentally compatible technology inside the building will round off the overall picture in the near future.
The project is to start this year: Volkswagen will be investing €400 million to replace the boilers currently fired using hard coal with combined-cycle plants (using gas and steam turbines). By the end of 2022, both power stations are to be converted completely from hard coal to natural gas firing.
This will bring considerable benefits to the environment: thanks to the 33% improvement in the energy efficiency of the combined-cycle plants and the use of natural gas instead of coal, the CO2 emissions of the two power stations are to be reduced by about 60% or 1.5 million tonnes per year. This corresponds to the current annual CO2 output of about 870,000 cars. With reference to the Volkswagen Group’s plants throughout the world, the reduction in CO2 emissions amounts to about 15 percent.
“If the production of synthetic natural gas, for example using power-to-gas plants*, becomes economically viable in future, our operations could even become entirely carbon neutral,” says Michael Heinemann, Speaker of the Management Board of VW Kraftwerk GmbH.
The new technology will also help reduce local environmental burdens. “Not only carbon dioxide output but also water consumption, waste volumes and other emissions will be drastically reduced,” explains Stephan Krinke, Head of Environmental Affairs of the Volkswagen Group.
Despite all the technical innovations, connoisseurs of power station architecture have no cause for concern. The four chimneys will remain in place. It will still be possible to illuminate them and in December they will once again shine out over the Autostadt like Advent candles.
*“power-to-gas” is a chemical process using eco-power to produce a fuel gas. Eco-power is generated using renewable energy sources. The gas produced may be referred to as wind gas, solar gas or similar depending on the power source. (Source: Wikipedia)
Thanks to the use of natural gas instead of coal, the CO₂ emissions of the two power stations are to be reduced by about 60% or 1.5 million tonnes per year.
Smart packing helps the environment
When moving house, clever loading will enable you to fit everything into the van in one go – from cupboards and carpets to floor lamps and pot plants. By making just one trip you also help reduce CO2 emissions. In its 4-in-1 transportation concept, ŠKODA has taken this simple principle and honed it into a fine art.
The logistics people at ŠKODA AUTO are using this pioneering solution to transport car bodies and non-localized parts from the brand’s main production plant in Mladá Boleslav in the Czech Republic to its Aurangabad plant in India. Some body attachments such as doors and hoods are already mounted prior to transport, while many others are supplied as non-assembled parts. This is what is referred to in the industry as a medium-knocked-down (MKD) kit. ŠKODA uses large ocean containers to transport these kits. Containers offer a safe and logistically efficient transport solution that also ensures that all the items that belong together stay together. Normally, two bodies and all the associated parts fit into a single container.
Now, the ŠKODA logistics team have devised a special carrier system which allows four vehicles to be transported in one container. This solution, which was developed over several years, allows every last inch of space to be used – with obvious benefits for the environment. Thanks to the 4-in-1 solution, 290 fewer containers are now making the 13,270-kilometer trip from Europe to India every year, reducing annual CO2 emissions by 850 tonnes.
CO₂ emissions reduced by 850 tonnes – every year.
Setting sail for the environment
Every year, Volkswagen Group Logistics transports 2.7 million vehicles by sea. And from 2019, some of them will be shipped to North America on two environmentally compatible LNG-powered car carriers.
LNG stands for Liquefied Natural Gas, an alternative marine fuel that is set to reduce the levels of air pollutants emitted by the Group’s car carriers on the North Atlantic route. Each of these LNG ships generates 25% less CO2 and up to 30% less nitrogen oxide per year than an equivalent conventionally-fueled vessel. Plus, emissions of soot particles drop by up to 60% and sulfur oxide emissions can be eliminated altogether.
The two charter vessels from Siem Car Carriers AS are around 200 meters in length and 36 meters wide, and they can each carry 4,500 vehicles. That gives them a load capacity comparable to a conventionally-powered ocean-going freighter – despite the below-deck presence of a large LNG tank that can hold 3,000 cubic meters of fuel.
The ships will operate exclusively for the Volkswagen Group, circulating between the company’s markets in Europe, Mexico, the USA and Canada. They set sail in Emden, northern Germany before calling at several ports on the eastern shores of Canada and the USA on their way to Veracruz in Mexico. From there they return to the U.S. east coast before sailing back to Emden. Volkswagen is one of the first automobile manufacturers to use LNG-powered ships to transport its vehicles. And back in 2014 the company was also the first automaker to join the Clean Shipping Network, which assesses the environmental impact of transportation by sea.
25% less CO₂ on the North Atlantic passage.
Making light work of environmental protection
The lighter a car, the less energy it takes to drive it. At the Open Hybrid LabFactory, scientists are looking into lightweight solutions for the cars of the future.
Even the facility itself makes a statement, its architecture displaying an impressive lightness of touch as it provides 10,000 square meters of space for a technology center, laboratories and offices. So it is fair to say that the Open Hybrid LabFactory offers the ideal environment for scientists from industry and academia to work on lightweight solutions for our automotive future.
The magic word in this context is “hybrid”. In their efforts to develop production components that are not only lightweight but also strong and low-cost, the scientists unite different materials such as metals, plastics and textiles. Glass fibers fed from reels on high shelves are processed on a 30-meter-long textile laying machine. In the central section of the machine, light-colored glass fibers are combined with dark carbon fibers to form a nonwoven that is durably bonded on a calendar at high pressure and temperature. “Carbon fibers are lighter and stronger but also far more expensive than glass fibers. So the ideal fabric will contain carbon fibers at precisely those points where high loads occur and they are therefore essential. That’s what we’re working on here,” explains Felix Eichleiter, the former Managing Director of the Open Hybrid LabFactory, who today works for Volkswagen Components Production.
The Open Hybrid LabFactory’s technology center also houses a press as tall as a house for combining metal and plastic. The press forces metals such as steel into the required shape with a weight of 3,600 tonnes and bonds it to hot liquid plastic which is then allowed to cool. It was on a machine like this that the first component ever made by the Open Hybrid LabFactory, a prototype seat backrest for SITECH, was produced. “The lightweight backrest clearly shows that lightweight components can be produced economically if we use materials optimized for the loads they will be expected to bear and ensure the smart integration of functions,” says Martin Zubeil, Managing Director of the Open Hybrid Lab Factory and an expert in the structural development of components. The technology center is surrounded by twelve laboratories where experts engage in materials analysis, for instance, or test the quality of the hybrid joints. But no matter how fascinating the solutions realized in this way may be, Volkswagen of course dives deeper, investigating their environmental balance-sheet over the full life cycle.
Under lead management of the Lower Saxony Research Center for Motor Vehicle Technology at the Technical University of Braunschweig, 28 partners collaborate within the Open Hybrid LabFactory. They include major corporations such as Volkswagen or ThyssenKrupp, as well as various universities and Fraunhofer Institutes.
Lightweight solutions for the cars of the future.
Every drop counts
Volkswagen saves 1,140 liters of water during production of a new Golf – compared with the predecessor model from 2010. And every year the new paint shop, which was commissioned in 2013, now saves the same amount of electricity as the entire German town of Königslutter consumes.
Employees in the body shop came up with the idea of using dual welding guns, which can weld two spots simultaneously. This shortens the operating cycle by 5 seconds, and with several thousand vehicles produced each day, that means measurable savings in terms of time and energy.
These are just three of many examples. The underlying program is called Think Blue. Factory. Its key message: For the Volkswagen brand today, ecology is no less important than quality, efficiency and innovation. What’s more, each year since 2010 the brand has saved more than 130 million euros through environmental measures.
In 2015 Volkswagen achieved its declared aim of building cars and components 25% more sustainably than in 2010. Now even more stringent targets have been set: By 2025 the aim is to reduce the environmental indicator for production by 45% per vehicle compared to a 2010 baseline. This “environmental impact reduction per unit” (UEP) aggregate indicator covers the environmental factors energy, water, waste, and CO2 and solvent emissions.” So every contribution counts, no matter how small; every last drop, so to speak.
New goal: By 2025 every car is to be manufactured with 45% less energy, CO₂, water, waste and solvents than in 2010.
*The stated values were determined according to the legally prescribed measuring procedures. The data do not refer to an individual vehicle and are not part of the offer, but serve only for comparison purposes between the different vehicle types. A vehicle's fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions not only depend on the efficient use of the fuel/energy content of the battery by the vehicle, but are also influenced by driving behaviour and other non-technical factors (e.g. environmental conditions). Additional equipment and accessories (attachments, tyres, etc.) can change relevant vehicle parameters, such as weight, rolling resistance and aerodynamics, and, in addition to weather and traffic conditions, influence consumption and mileage values. The information on fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions applies to span widths depending on the tyre format selected and optional extras. Further information on official fuel consumption and the official specific CO₂ emissions of new passenger cars can be found in the "Guide on fuel consumption, CO₂ emissions and electricity consumption of new passenger cars", which is available free of charge at all sales outlets and from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH, Hellmuth-Hirth-Straße 1, D-73760 Ostfildern or at www.dat.de Efficiency classes evaluate vehicles on the basis of CO₂ emissions, taking into account the empty vehicle weight. Vehicles which correspond to the average are classified as D. Vehicles that are better than the current average are rated A+, A, B or C. Vehicles that are worse than average are described as E, F or G.