Sustainable right from the start: Audi’s CO₂ program

For Audi, consistently sustainable means reducing CO₂ emissions at the point of production. With electric cars, that’s not the exhaust pipe anymore, but the manufacturing process. And that’s precisely the starting point for the company and its suppliers.

12/16/2019 Reading Time: 4 min

More responsibility for lower resource consumption

We live beyond our means. Since July 29, 2019, to be precise. That was the day on which we consumed all the natural resources that the Earth theoretically provided us with for the year. The Earth Overshoot Day is the benchmark for humanity’s ecological footprint. Year after year it’s being brought farther and farther forward in the calendar. At present, we are consuming the resources of around 1.75 Earths. According to Global Footprint Network, halving our CO₂ emissions would push back Earth Overshoot Day by 93 days and combat climate change. Not only is decarbonizing the economy our best possible chance to address climate change, but it would also vastly improve the balance between our ecological footprint and the planet’s renewable natural resources.

Consistently electric

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is the most important step in improving the ecological footprint. The Volkswagen Group produces one percent of global CO₂ emissions. 1 Recognizing this responsibility, the Group was one of the first to sign up to the Paris Climate Agreement and set itself the target of a carbon-neutral footprint on balance through 2050. Audi is at the start of a major transformation, but within just six years the aim is to reduce the CO₂ footprint by 30 percent. Various measures were implemented to drive forward steady decarbonization.

Consistent electrification of the vehicle fleet will help the company achieve its targets. But it must make the right adjustments to fully leverage the potential – emissions can be cut particularly during manufacture. And the energy revolution also plays a decisive role: The use of green electricity vastly improves the life-cycle assessment of electric cars.

Audi e-tron Sportback: Power consumption (combined*) in kWh/100 km: 24–20.9 (NEDC) | 25.9–21.1 (WLTP)CO₂ emissions (combined*) in g/km: 0
Information on fuel/power consumption and CO₂ emissions with ranges depending on the selected equipment of the vehicle.

Audi e-tron Sportback: Power consumption (combined*) in kWh/100 km: 24–20.9 (NEDC) | 25.9–21.1 (WLTP)CO₂ emissions (combined*) in g/km: 0
Information on fuel/power consumption and CO₂ emissions with ranges depending on the selected equipment of the vehicle.

Savings potential in the supply chain

The switch to electric mobility generates most of the CO₂ emissions in the supply chain. Here and in the downstream production processes, almost a quarter of all CO₂ emissions will be produced at Audi in 2025. To combat this, the company initiated a year ago a “CO₂ program” in the supply chain that envisages cost-cutting measures across all levels. In 30 workshops, Audi together with suppliers has so far defined 50 measures that help cut CO₂ right from the start, such as using renewable energy sources, recycling processes, or closing material loops. In this way, 1.2 tons of CO₂ per vehicle could be saved in future. In particular, energy-intensive materials such as steel or aluminum offer lots of savings potential.

Aluminum and Audi: an untarnishable combination

The material aluminum goes back many years at Audi and is one of the company’s core competences. Audi was the first automaker to use the material for its lightweight construction models. The benefits of the material are obvious: Aluminum doesn’t rust, is easy to machine, and, most importantly of all, it makes cars light. The downside is that the primary production of aluminum requires very large quantities of energy and usage of natural resources. It takes around 15 megawatt hours of power to produce a ton of aluminum. Roughly about the same as a two-person household consumes in five years.

Audi is conscious of its responsibility in this respect. In 2013, the brand with the Four Rings became a member of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI). The ASI developed a global standard for the handling of aluminum, which lays down environment-related and social criteria along the value chain. In 2018, Audi received the Performance Standard certificate from the ASI for its responsible use of aluminum for the battery housing on the Audi e-tron. 20 percent of its body is incidentally made of aluminum.

The Aluminium Closed Loop

To use even less primary aluminum in manufacturing in future, Audi launched the Aluminium Closed Loop three years ago. This ensures that high-grade aluminum scrap is not sold for profit on the scrap metal market, but is fed back into the material loop. Excess aluminum offcuts from the press shop are returned to the producer, where they are recycled and supplied back to Audi in the next step as secondary aluminum. The recycling rate is almost 100 percent. Compared with primary aluminum, up to 95 percent less energy is consumed during production.

~ 5%

of the energy to produce secondary aluminum is required, that you would otherwise need to obtain primary aluminum.

90,000 t

of CO₂ on balance was saved by Audi in 2018 alone.

Recycling economy for a better climate

The closed loop should gradually be transferred to other press shops in the Group, thus systematically promoting the use of secondary material. Apart from aluminum and steel, materials in particular for the battery offer great potential. An initial research project tested a closed loop for recycling cobalt and nickel.

Audi is looking closely at the circular economy and is showing that the system works. Projects such as the Aluminium Closed Loop contribute decisively to decarbonizing the company and conserving more resources. Reuse can substantially reduce the demand for new raw materials. Electric mobility is decisive here, as compared with conventional drives the closed material loops help significantly reduce the use of critical raw materials and hopefully also help push back the Earth Overshoot Day in the calendar.

Our responsibility: Focus on human rights

Respect for and protection of human rights is a top priority at Audi. Therefore the brand with the four rings is also involved in various initiatives, thereby campaigning for the preservation of human and environmental rights in the supply chain together with other partners. For example, Audi is a member of the Global Battery Alliance. It is concerned with the protection of human rights and social standards for the mining of raw materials for batteries and develops solutions for the reuse of lithium-ion batteries. Audi has been an active member of the Global Battery Alliance since it was established in September 2017. Over the medium term, the plan includes verifying the sustainability performance of the mines in our supply chain. With that in mind, Volkswagen joined the CERA (Certification of Raw Materials) project in early 2019. The project aims to develop such a standard and will test this on selected raw materials.

Sustainable Development Goals


Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs) describe 17 global goals for sustainable development. With the Audi CO2 program in production, the company is contributing to SDG numbers 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption), 13 (Climate Action) and 17 (Partnerships).

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