Volkswagen revs up bid to become world’s greenest carmaker

German carmaker Volkswagen has released its 2014 Sustainability Report, revealing good progress towards its plan to become "the world's most sustainable automobile company".


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Emissions and energy use per vehicle have fallen, while a higher percentage of waste is being recycled than ever before.

“As one of the world’s largest industrial companies, we bear a special responsibility,” said chairman of Volkswagen’s board of management Dr. Martin Winterkorn. “And we want to use our power for the benefit of people, the environment and society. For us, sustainability is not a ‘nice to have’. Sustainability is a real, measurable value driver for our business.”

The headline figure from the report is a 36% drop in scope 1 emissions per vehicle compared with a 2010 baseline.

A focus on in-house energy supplies contributed to the drop, while ‘resource-optimised manufacturing processes also played a part’ according to VW.

When including Scope 2 emissions, the drop per vehicle since 2010 was 23%, powered by increased procurement of renewable energy.

Energy

The four years since 2010 saw a 26% increase in absolute electricity consumption, although this translates to a 10% decrease in electricity use/vehicle.

“The influence of increasing production volumes is reflected in an increase in absolute values for many indicators,” reads the report. “However, thanks to increased efficiency, an improvement in specific values has been achieved for many indicators.”

Water

The aforementioned rise in production has also led to a continuous increase in water use over the past five years.

Despite this, freshwater consumption per vehicle has been reduced by around 6.8% thanks to “numerous recycling measures” including the reuse of used water in coating processes.

Wastewater volumes per vehicle also fell by 10% thanks to the introduction of waterless manufacturing processes and water recycling. For example, purified wastewater from an evaporator is reused for cleaning workshop floors.

Waste

The proportion of waste sent for disposal fell from around 31% in 2010 to around 23% in 2014, while recycling rates went up from 69% to 77%.

The volume of metallic waste per vehicle has also been reduced by improvements in material utilisation and resource-optimised manufacturing processes.

Looking forward…

VW claims it wants to use its position in the transport sector to reduce the impact of travel. “Our Powertrain and Fuel Strategy also aims to replace fossil fuels with renewables, as part of our long-term goal of achieving carbon-neutral mobility. 

In that spirit, the company will continue to support low-carbon fuels such as renewable electricity for electric vehicles or next-generation biofuels generated form organic waste and synthetic natural gas.

 Brad Allen

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