The heart of the electric mobility
Electric vehicles roll off the assembly line with a poorer CO₂ footprint than combustion engine vehicles – the manufacturing process produces roughly 1.5x more CO₂. This is because the high voltage battery cell production is so energy intensive: roughly one third of the total energy required for the production is needed for the battery cells alone, in particular, because the raw materials are applied in liquid form and require a complex drying process. The solution is to consistently use green electricity. This is exactly what Volkswagen does – it also considers the future charging and later recycling as part of an integrated approach to climate protection.
Reducing CO₂ by 80 %
Manufacturing high-voltage battery cells takes a lot of energy – battery-cell production accounts for around one third of the CO₂ emitted during the production of an electric vehicle (EV). This is primarily because wet materials are poured onto a film and must then be dried. This means that manufacturing an EV produces on average 1.5 times more CO₂ emissions than the production of vehicles fitted with petrol or diesel engines. But if green power is used to manufacture the high-voltage battery cells, over 80 % of these emissions can be avoided.
This is exactly what Volkswagen is doing: Korean-owned LG Chem supplies the battery cells for the ID.3 from its plant in the Polish city of Wrocław. When LG Chem first signed its supply contract with Volkswagen, the supplier agreed to use only certified green electricity to manufacture these battery cells.
Following this positive experience, and in view of the benefits to the climate, the Volkswagen Group went on to develop new procurement guidelines stipulating that in the future, Group companies should only purchase battery cells produced using green power. Suppliers must provide documentary proof of this before any contracts are signed. As a result, the carbon footprint of the battery cells arriving at the Zwickau plant is 80 % smaller than before. And as Volkswagen offsets the remaining unavoidable CO₂ emissions by investing in climate action projects, we are able to supply our customers with vehicles boasting a net-zero carbon footprint.
Gigafactories support climate-friendly electric mobility
Here in Skellefteå, Sweden, the first of six new gigafactories is being built to meet Volkswagen’s growing demand for battery cells. Production is due to start in 2023 and will be expanded to an annual capacity of up to 40 GWh. A second factory with the same capacity is slated for construction in Salzgitter, Germany, together with others in southern and eastern Europe. In total, the six new plants – products of a joint venture between Volkswagen and Swedish company northvolt – will produce cells with a total capacity of 240 GWh per year.
These gigafactories will both safeguard Volkswagen’s battery supply and have a positive effect on the climate. Three factors in particular – the factories’ high production capacity, synergies between the factories and, above all, a new, standardized cell type – will make the battery cells themselves significantly cheaper. Innovative production methods and systematic recycling should further reduce the costs of battery systems, ultimately taking them to well below 100 euros per kilowatt hour. As a result, climate-friendly electromobility will become attractive and affordable for the widest possible range of people. At the same time, Volkswagen will be making a major contribution to achieving the climate protection targets set down in the European Green Deal.
Green battery logistics
Volkswagen is already using exclusively green electricity to manufacture battery cells for the ID.3 and ID.4 EV series. And thanks to a green logistics chain and the latest automation technology, their transportation has also become more climate-friendly since the end of 2020.
The battery cells manufactured using green power are first transported by rail from the supplier in Wroclaw, Poland, to the Volkswagen Group Components plant in Braunschweig. DB Cargo uses 100 % eco-electricity for rail transport within Germany. Once arrived in Braunschweig, the cells are automatically unloaded onto electric trucks and taken to the workshop, where the complete battery systems are assembled. These are then loaded back onto rail cars – again, using a fully automated process – for transportation to the Zwickau plant. Energy from renewables is used for this leg too.
The loading and unloading systems in Zwickau and Braunschweig are regarded as some of the most advanced systems of their type in the industry. This high level of automation is an essential prerequisite for efficient battery assembly at our German plants.
Overall, compared with conventional transportation by truck, this green logistics chain cuts out around 11,000 metric tonnes of CO₂ emissions. Equivalent to the annual CO₂ emissions of a village with 1,000 residents, this represents a key contribution to the carbon-neutral series production of electric vehicles.
Anyone who drives electric will tell you how much they would love to be able to fast-charge their vehicle on a trip and get back on the road straight away. Now the innovative DC wallbox from Volkswagen Group Components is close to making this dream come true. Delivering direct current at up to 22 kW, it charges EVs twice as fast as comparable AC systems. The DC charge flows directly into the traction battery, bypassing the vehicle’s onboard charger. As a result, fast charging is no longer impeded by onboard charging capacity.
Even better, the DC wallbox will support bidirectional charging. This means that electricity can flow in both directions, into and out of the vehicle’s battery, so that spare power can be returned to the grid. This means that EVs can be used as energy stores for private use, or as buffers for balancing grid peaks.
The Group is currently running a pilot project, with 20 DC wallboxes installed on production sites in Wolfsburg, Braunschweig, Hanover, Salzgitter and Kassel. The real-world experience gained during the trial will ensure that these prototypes can be rapidly transformed into series production models.
ID.4 1ST Edition (150 kW) - combined power consumption in kWh/100 km (NEDC): 16,2; CO₂ emissions in g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+
Robots at your service
A prototype mobile charging robot is one of the visionary concepts which Volkswagen Group Components plans to use to develop its charging infrastructure over the next few years. The robots will be capable of autonomously charging vehicles in confined parking garages and spaces.
Directed by an app or Car-to-X messaging, the mobile charging robot will make its own way to the vehicle that needs charging and communicate with it. The entire process will take place without human intervention, from opening the flap over the charging socket to connecting and then disconnecting the charging cable. In the future, drivers will simply enter a parking garage and park their EVs, whereupon a charging robot will automatically emerge and charge the vehicles while their drivers are away.
Each robot can charge several vehicles at once using trailer-mounted mobile energy stores. The robot connects the charging unit directly to the vehicle and initiates the battery-recharging process, then moves off to charge other vehicles. Once a vehicle’s battery has been topped up, the robot returns of its own accord to retrieve the mobile energy store and return it to the central charging station.
Take old, make new
Batteries in electric cars contain a wealth of raw materials: lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt, as well as aluminum. Mining these and using them to make high-voltage batteries takes a lot of energy – which has a negative impact on the climate. To help minimize that impact, Volkswagen has opened a plant for recycling end-of-life high-voltage batteries, enabling over 90 % of a spent vehicle battery to be re-used.
First, the recycling experts in Salzgitter, Germany, discharge and dismantle the old battery systems. A shredder then grinds them into granulate. Along with aluminum and copper, this mainly produces a black powder containing lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt, as well as graphite. These substances can be separated from each other using water and chemical agents. The advantage here is that there is no need to melt them down in an energy-intensive blast furnace.
At present the plant can recycle around 3,600 battery systems per year. Each recycled 62 KWh battery saves the atmosphere around 1.3 metric tonnes of CO₂ emissions.
Volkswagen takes climate protection seriously
Charging stations for America
The charging speed of the charging station is a key factor when it comes to expanding climate-friendly electric mobility. With its subsidiary Electrify America, Volkswagen is constructing a network of quick-charging stations in the USA. Since the company’s founding, it is constructed for charging stations per week on average. Currently, there are more than 2,200 charging points at 500 stations. By the end of 2021, there will be around 800 sites with more than 3,500 charging points.
The quick-charging network spans two high-traffic corridors: The cross-country Route #1 runs 4,300 km through 11 federal states between Los Angeles and Washington D.C. On average, a charging station from Electrify America is available to drivers every 112 km. The cross-country Route #2 runs through the south of the USA from Florida along the Gulf coast to Texas and onward to San Diego.
Electrify America was founded in 2017 as a consequence of the diesel crisis. As part of a settlement, Volkswagen committed to investing two billion US-dollars in establishing a charging network for electric vehicles.
Roughly 55 litres of diesel or petrol per minute flow through the filling nozzle when refuelling. That is why it only takes around one minute to fully refuel a mid-size vehicle. “Refuelling” electric vehicle could soon be almost as fast. The FastCharge research project has presented ultra-fast charging stations with similar capabilities. A Porsche research vehicle with a net battery capacity of around 90 kWh achieved charging times of less than three minutes for the first 100 km of range at a charging power of over 400 kW.
The FastCharge research project investigating the technical prerequisites for vehicles and infrastructure that need to be achieved to enable extremely high charging performance. Depending on the vehicle model, the new and free of charge ultrafast charging station can be used for vehicles with both 400 V and 800 V battery systems. The charging performance provided automatically adjusts to match the vehicle’s maximum permissible charging power.