How is Audi making carbon-neutral production a reality?
Vehicle manufacturing produces CO₂ emissions at various stages, including the provision of electricity, heating or transportation at the plant.
In 2014, Audi was the first premium carmaker to determine its corporate carbon footprint according to an internationally accepted standard. It marked a key step toward transparency in the company’s greenhouse gas emissions. Today, these emissions can be analyzed in even greater detail and effectively reduced.
Brussels is an example: Production at the site is completely carbon neutral, as certified by independent experts. That makes the facility both a pioneer and a role model. It is also logical that the first purely electric series-production vehicle, the Audi e-tron, is manufactured here. This is one effort not only to secure the company’s own future, but also to play its part in achieving the strategic goal of sustainability.
Since 2016, the switch to green electricity has enabled Audi Brussels to prevent the release of around 17,000 metric tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere each year – equivalent to the footprint of some 1,500 Germans per year.
The Audi plant in Brussels has the largest photovoltaic system in the region on its roof, covering an area about the size of 12.5 soccer fields.
Audi in Brussels offsets CO₂ emissions generated by the use of natural gas by purchasing biogas certificates, thereby compensating for around 22,000 metric tons of CO₂ pollution annually. For this amount, an Audi A3 Sedan could drive about 4,200 times around the globe.
In 2019, the Brussels site compensated with certificates around 5.250 metric tons of CO 2 that cannot be avoided by using other energy sources. That’s enough to power a cruise ship with 2,500 passengers at sea for about ten days.
As early as 2012, Audi in Brussels began purchasing green electricity and preventing the emission of up to 17,000 metric tons of CO₂ per year. In 2013, the largest photovoltaic system in the region was installed. In 2017 the facility was expanded. Measuring 89,000 square meters – approximately the size of 12.5 soccer fields – it produces enough green electricity to power the equivalent of over 1.500 four-person households for one year. At the same time, heating of the plant is carbon neutral thanks to the purchase of biogas certificates. All other emissions produced by fuels, heating oil or incinerating solvents are offset through so-called carbon credit projects.
Apart from reducing CO₂ emissions, other steps are taken to improve the site’s environmental footprint. Additional projects protect the environment by conserving water and energy or reducing emissions of pollutants into the air and water.
All processes are founded on efficiency. And that includes avoiding materials that are harmful to the environment and making optimum use of resources. Cutting-edge technology is used to accomplish this.
Environmental protection in Brussels
The overview shows how diverse and extensive environmental protection is at the Brussels plant and outlines the projects underway in the production facilities.
Audi Group production sites
The following overview shows a few examples among many. They are instrumental in ensuring that the company meets its ecological targets.
Audi site in Ingolstadt
With its membrane bioreactor, Audi Ingolstadt is exploiting a pioneering water treatment method that reduces annual fresh water usage by up to half a million cubic meters. This is because wastewater treated in this way can be returned to the plant as process water. It enables fresh water savings equivalent to the average amount used by some 11,000 German citizens each year. What’s more, around 70 percent of the plant’s energy supply is already carbon neutral.
Audi site in Neckarsulm
The paint shop in the Four Rings’ second main plant in Germany reduces solvent emissions by some 50 percent. Wastewater is discharged into the neighboring sewage treatment plant, where the solvents it contains are converted into methane through anaerobic digestion. The methane can subsequently be used as an energy source. As a result, 250 metric tons of volatile organic compounds (VOC) were eliminated in 2017.
Audi site in San José Chiapa
In the first quarter of 2017, the Mexican Audi plant succeeded in recycling more than 90 percent of its waste, including metals – in other words, almost 30,000 metric tons. That is equivalent to more than six fully loaded freight trains. Another green project involved planting 100,000 trees in the vicinity of the plant and digging 25,000 pits. These have several functions: They provide the nearby trees with water and, each year, collect up to 375,000 cubic meters of rainwater, which when filtered contributes to naturally remediating the groundwater. In addition, the pits reduce erosion.
Audi site in Győr
More than 60 percent of the Hungarian Audi plant’s heating needs are supplied by a completely carbon-neutral geothermal plant. This system uses 100-degree Celsius water from around 2,400 meters underground. This facility cuts CO₂ emissions by 23,000 metric tons each year – the same quantity as over 3,600 Hungarians generate in the same period. Hungary’s annual CO₂ emissions average 6.3 metric tons per capita.
Since 2016, a combined cooling, heat and power system has generated electricity, heating and cooling energy. The electric power produced using this plant meets around 80 percent of the Bologna Ducati site’s total demand. In the first year alone, this saved more than 2,000 metric tons of CO₂ from being emitted. This reduction is equivalent to the amount generated by a person flying from Munich to Sydney and back around 300 times.
Since 2015, Lamborghini has reduced the amount of toxic waste produced by setting up a new treatment plant for processing washing water. In 2017 alone, waste production at the Sant’Agata Bolognese plant was cut by about 800 metric tons, approximately equivalent to the weight of 400 new Audi A8 cars.