Slow progress on water and energy usage for carmakers

Despite car manufacturers 'racing ahead' in a recent global green brands ranking, the latest industry-wide sustainability report reveals that energy efficiency has slowed, while water consumption has increased over the past year.

The 15th annual Automotive Sustainability Report, which collates the green credentials of 23 major car manufacturers including Ford, Volkswagen Group and Honda, revealed that total energy usage dropped by just 0.8% in 2013, but energy used per vehicle manufactured increased by 3% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, water use rose by 5.1% in 2013 with water use per vehicle also increasing by 3.9%. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which publishes the report, says these growing figures can be put down to a boost in production along with a number of leak and supply issues at production plants.

Positive steps

Some carmakers are in good shape when it comes to water consumption. Ford is now in the process of setting a new long-term water reduction target, having achieved its 2015 goal to cut global water use per vehicle by 30% two years ahead of schedule, while Volkswagen last year revealed the benefits of its new ‘dry scrubbing’ paint spray technology, which saves over 90,000 litres of water a day.

And, in general, the automotive industry has made positive strides when it comes to managing environmental impact. Since the reporting began 15 years ago, the signatories have produced almost 25% more cars using the same amount of energy as in 1999. The overall water footprint of signatories has also improved by 35%.

Waste is perhaps the standout area here – carmakers in the UK have cut landfill volumes so dramatically in recent years that, per vehicle, just 3.5kg ends up as landfill waste – a massive 91.3% reduction on 15 years ago when reporting began. Signatories recorded an equally impressive performance in 2013 with a 41% drop in waste to landfill per vehicle.

VIDEO: SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes

In the foreword of the 2013 Automotive Sustainability Report, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “One of the biggest challenges facing the sector is the transition to a low-carbon future. Clearly a significant part of a low-carbon future lies in manufacturing processes, and the production of 25% more cars using the same energy as 15 years ago demonstrates the progress made by industry in this respect.”

Hawes’ comments are supported by the recent Cars and CO2 report from Transport & Environment, which revealed that five out of seven European car manufacturers will reach the EU’s carbon emissions objectives by the 2021 deadline if they progress at the same rate since the law was introduced in 2008.

Last month edie reported that Ford, Toyota, Honda and Nissan took up the top four spots of Interbrand’s ‘Best Global Green Brands’ in 2014. Read the full list here.

REPORT: Automotive Sustainability 2014

Luke Nicholls

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