Pressing, welding and transport: building a car costs a lot of energy, in particular, electricity and heat. That is why every new vehicle manufactured by the Volkswagen Group already has a footprint of almost one tonne of CO2 because of the production steps at our plants. Although this is a lightweight footprint compared to the emissions produced during the usage phase, is this still a reason to ignore climate protection during the production? Of course not. That is why Volkswagen consistently orients its production on climate protection.
Climate action made in Leipzig
All the electricity required for Porsche’s production operations in Leipzig is generated from renewable energy, some of it from the factory’s own rooftop photovoltaic system. A biomass-fired combined heat and power plant located right next to the factory meets up to 80 % of the energy requirements of both paint shop and assembly line – and does so in a carbon-neutral manner.
The Leipzig plant saves a great deal of energy and conserves resources at many different points in the production process. In the paint shop, for example, a stone dust-based separation process filters the inevitable excess paint particles from the overspray. Compared to water-based systems, this dry process is up to 60 percent more energy-efficient. Opting for low-energy LEDs instead of fluorescent lamps for making visual inspections in the light tunnel has cut the energy required by 50 %. And automated shuttle technology in the small parts store cuts emissions by around 675 metric tonnes of CO₂ a year compared to a conventional warehouse.
Another focal point is the body shop. Here, robots join panels using flow-drilling screws. According to this ingenious, waste-saving method, the screws are inserted with no need to drill holes in advance. The servo-pneumatic processing of many components in the body shop no longer requires any energy-intensive compressed air at all. And in the Macan body shop, an innovative cooling system for robot welding tongs, complete with integral heat recovery, cuts energy consumption by more than 365,000 kWh per year.
The Leipzig plant is currently preparing to produce the next-generation Macan with an all-electric driveline. At the same time, Porsche is investing in the expansion of the charging infrastructure. Since February 2020, twelve 350 kW (DC) fast charging points and four 22 kW (AC) charging points have been available at the Leipzig plant – round the clock, seven days a week, for all makes of vehicle. The total capacity of the charging park, including six fast charging points for company use, amounts to 7 MW. This makes it one of Europe’s most powerful fast charging parks operating entirely on green electricity.
Audi Hungaria achieves carbon-neutrality
Audi’s Hungarian site in Győr is taking three different approaches to carbon-neutrality. The first involves switching over to renewable energy. Audi now operates Europe’s largest roof-mounted photovoltaic facility, covering 160,000 m² – the plant’s 36,400 solar cells generate a peak output of 12 megawatts. The second approach involves sourcing geothermal energy from the site’s own geothermal plant, which meets around 70 % of the company’s heating needs. The facility supplies at least 82,000 megawatt-hours of thermal energy per year. Since it was commissioned in 2015, the company has used 250 gigawatt-hours of geothermal energy, cutting CO₂ emissions by 50,000 metric tonnes. The rest of its heating requirements are met by natural gas, backed by biogas certificates to ensure net carbon neutrality. Audi Hungaria uses certified carbon credits to offset the currently unavoidable 5 % of CO₂ emissions generated at engine test benches and elsewhere.
Carbon-neutral production in Brussels
The world’s first certified carbon-neutral, high-volume production plant in the premium automotive segment is based here in Brussels, Belgium.
At the Audi plant, all production processes and any other emissions produced by the facility are either covered by renewable energy (around 95 %) or offset by environmental projects (the remaining five percent). Audi was awarded carbon-neutral certification by Belgian testing company Vinçotte.
Audi’s carbon-neutral manufacturing operation in Brussels is based on three key elements. First, the company’s own rooftop photovoltaic system, which generates green electricity. Second, to supply the factory with heat – including office heating – Audi uses renewable energy, with appropriate biogas certificates. These two elements alone cover 95 % of Audi’s on-site energy demand, reducing annual CO₂ emissions by roughly 40,000 metric tonnes. The third key element? Audi offsets any unavoidable CO₂ emissions – produced by company vehicles, for example – by investing in carbon credit projects.
Carbon-neutral production of ID.3 and ID.4
The production line at the Volkswagen plant in Zwickau, Germany, which manufactures the all-electric ID.3 and ID.4 models, is net carbon-neutral. This is because the plant is – among other things – powered by green power supplied by Volkswagen Kraftwerk GmbH and generated by hydropower plants, wind farms and solar installations. Any remaining demand is covered by the site’s own combined heat and power (CHP) plant, which runs on natural gas – more climate-friendly than coal-powered electricity. The other big advantage of having an on-site cogeneration plant? It also happens to cover 70 % of the factory’s heating requirements.
The production workshops, all recently expanded or built from scratch, comply with the latest energy-efficiency regulations, minimizing the plant’s consumption of heat, water and electricity. Even the use of natural gas – one of the major production consumables – has been optimized. The temperature of the exhaust gases produced by thermal post-combustion processes in the paint shop has been carefully calibrated to reduce pollutant emissions while simultaneously cutting the level of gas consumption.
Where Zwickau’s production line is unable to avoid CO₂ emissions, Volkswagen offsets them by investing in climate action projects – especially active forest conservation projects and reforestation in the tropics.
ID.3 Pro Performance (150 kW) - combined power consumption in kWh/100 km: 16.9 - 15.4 (WLTP); 15.4 - 14.5 (NEFZ); CO₂ emissions in g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+
Climate action at a European e-mobility hub
SEAT S.A.’s Martorell plant, 20 kilometers from Barcelona in Spain, is setting a benchmark in climate action. The plant operates its own combined heat and power (CHP) plant that generates 50 percent of the power and 90 percent of the heat required by the facility. Compared to the previously outsourced conventional energy supply, this represents annual savings of 12,800 metric tonnes of CO₂. Proprietary rail tracks between the port and one of Barcelona’s industrial zones eliminate the need for thousands of truck trips, reducing emissions accordingly. And up on the roof is the automotive industry’s biggest solar power plant. Covering 276,000 m2, this is roughly the size of 40 soccer pitches. Every year, the 53,000 panels generate some 15 million kWh of electricity.
The future is looking bright and sunny, too. A vision shared by Volkswagen and the Spanish government sees Spain as a leading hub of electric mobility. Home to Europe’s second-largest automotive sector, the country has a key part to play in the European Green Deal whereby Europe hopes to become the first continent to achieve climate neutrality.
The carbon-neutral factory
Vrchlabí is the picturesque gateway to the Krkonoše (“Giant”) Mountains in the Czech Republic – and it is here that ŠKODA is opening the door to a carbon-neutral future. By implementing numerous energy-saving measures and switching to renewable electricity, the site has managed to eliminate over 90 percent of its CO₂ emissions. The remaining, currently unavoidable, 7 percent are offset through investments in climate action projects. As a result, operations at the components plant have been net carbon-neutral since 2020.
The various initiatives include new heating systems, which initially reduced energy consumption by 6,700 MWh. Subsequently, unused heating circuits were closed, room temperatures were regulated to save energy, lighting was linked to operating hours, and a clever system was introduced to control the air flow. These measures resulted in further energy savings: 1,930 MWh for heating energy and around 660 MWh for electricity.
By switching to energy from renewable sources, the on-site experts reduced the plant’s CO₂ emissions from 45,000 metric tonnes per year to around 3,000 metric tonnes. The only remaining fossil fuel is natural gas, which will be replaced by carbon-neutral methane from biogas plants in the future. The remaining CO₂ emissions are currently offset by investment in offset initiatives and the purchase of carbon certificates.
On track ...
At the more than 100 production facilities there are even more specific examples of climate protection. These are more than just modernisation projects. Often, they are ideas from the staff themselves that provide a positive effect for the climate by modifying small details. The sum of all of these measures has contributed to enabling us to reduce the energy consumption when producing a vehicle by 0.2 MWh over the past 10 years.
This is good but not good enough. We know that we can achieve far greater effect by consistently using green electricity. That is why we have changed our energy sourcing accordingly. Today, around 90% of the energy needed is already drawn from regenerative sources. We have achieved a lot. But there is still a lot left to do on our path toward a completely climate neutral or, ideally, even environmentally-neutral production.
Protecting the climate worldwide
Whether in Pinetown or in Olifantsfontein in South Africa, in St. Petersburg or in Munich – MAN is reducing its CO₂ footprint at every site. This is the result of successfully combining conversion and modernisation of the energy supply along with the use of renewable energies and energy efficiency measures. Whereas MAN’s production produced 374,600 metric tonnes of CO₂ in 2008, in 2018 it only produced 265,710 metric tonnes. As such, annual emissions sank by 108,809 metric tonnes – equivalent to the CO₂ footprint of a small city. The goal is to produce less than 144,000 metric tonnes of CO₂ emissions by 2025. MAN aims to achieve completely carbon-neutral production by 2030.
Fast progress on the road to becoming a zero-impact factory
Speed is in Porsche’s DNA. So it’s no surprise that the sportscar manufacturer’s main plant in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany, is racing towards its goal of becoming a zero-impact factory – one that will have no negative effects on the environment. CO₂ emissions from vehicle production at this plant have fallen by over 90 percent since 2014. At the same time, energy consumption has fallen by more than 25 percent. The Zuffenhausen plant has been producing Porsche’s all-electric Taycan sportscar in a net carbon-neutral process since the end of 2019, using only energy from renewable sources. The company is also making it easy for employees to help protect the climate, with an app for setting up carpools and the Porsche JobRad program for leasing company bicycles. Porsche also subsidizes season tickets for local public transit services.
Climate-friendly electric mobility for China
This is where climate-friendly electromobility really takes off: In statistical terms, half of the world’s electric vehicles are on the road in China. Volkswagen works to ensure that these not only reduce CO₂ emissions while in use but are also the result of climate-friendly production: A factory dedicated to producing electric vehicles based on the modular electric drive matrix (MEB) is currently being constructed in Anhui. Construction is expected to be completed by 2022. Production will commence in 2023 and will use regenerative energy exclusively from day one.
Volkswagen Anhui is the Group’s third pure electric vehicle plant in China following Anting and Foshan. By 2025, the Volkswagen Group aims to deliver up to 1.5 million electric vehicles per year in China. Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China, said: “Volkswagen Anhui will become a worldwide innovation centre for electric mobility in one of the cornerstones of the Group’s decarbonisation strategy. We emphasise our dedication to reducing CO₂ emissions far beyond the vehicle fleet itself with this plant that will run on renewable energy from day one.”