VW Aims to Cut Environmental Impact of Production in Half by 2025

When you are a company that has been embroiled in a scandal that involved cheating on diesel engine emissions tests, you need to set your environmental targets high. And that is precisely what Volkswagen has done.

Volkswagen intends to cut the environmental impact of its production in half by 2025. That includes a 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions, energy and water consumption, waste production and solvent emissions, against a 2010 baseline. The company has already met its 25 percent reduction in those areas by 2018.

”We are on the way to the resource-optimized factory,” declared Production Board Member Thomas Ulbrich. Achieving a resource-optimized factory is possible because of its Think Blue. Factory environmental program. The program includes 5,300 measures to reduce emissions and use resources more efficiently. There are 16 paint shops that have been optimized. The base load energy consumption of its plants during non-production times decreased by 15 percent on average. And eight of its international locations get 100 percent of their power needs from renewable sources. The program has already saved the company over $146 million in production over a six-year period.

VW is basing its environmental targets on the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. Think Blue. Factory has received over 30 awards, including the National Energy Globe as the best project in Germany, the GreenTec Award for energy efficiency and water-saving measures in production and the Sustainovation Award. At of the end of 2016, it has achieved an average reduction of 29.2 percent in environmental impact: a 23.5 percent reduction in energy, 28.6 in carbon emissions, 27.5 percent in water and 7.6 percent in solvent emissions.

How VW supports the Paris climate treaty

While President Trump is expected to pull out of the Paris climate treaty, VW states in its 2016 sustainability report it welcomes the ratification of the treaty that calls to limit temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Its CEO Matthias Müller has even called for the automotive industry to ensure that all fleet carbon emissions are “steadily reduced to zero by 2050.” 

Optimizing carbon emissions from its vehicle fleet is what VW considers to be its most effective lever for reducing its global carbon footprint. A crucial part of that is its powertrain and fuel strategy, which consists of three parts: optimizing conventional powertrains, more intensive use of low-carbon fuels, and greater focus on hybrid-all electric-powertrains. In 2016, VW introduced nine models with alternative drives, including battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). 

VW has been working on developing hydrogen fuel-cell technologies for over 15 years. Although it acknowledges the technologies are still not widely available the company is involved in the H2 Mobility project, which aims to systematically develop a hydrogen fuel-cell infrastructure in Germany.

Photo: Volkswagen