4 steps to net carbon neutrality¹ in Ingolstadt
Audi is placing its focus on electric mobility, will gradually phase out production of models with combustion engines by 2033 and is optimizing all links in the value chain. The goal is to ensure that every vehicle should leave behind the smallest possible carbon footprint over its entire life cycle. An important element of this is Audi’s target of net carbon-neutral1 production from 2025 at all of its production sites.
Consumption of energy, heat and gas in Audi production in Ingolstadt since 2016
Net carbon-neutral production
1 is a challenge
2 that two Audi plants have already overcome. When production of the Audi e-tron began in 2018, the plant in Brussels became the first high-volume production location in the premium segment worldwide to be certified as net carbon-neutral
1 (production 2022: 50,302 vehicles). The Audi production site in Győr in Hungary then followed in January 2020 (production 2022: 170,018 vehicles), and soon after Böllinger Höfe, an external location of the Audi plant in Neckarsulm, at the end of 2020 (production 2022: 13,771 vehicles). Ingolstadt will become the third location (production 2022: 332,981 vehicles) when net carbon-neutral production
1 commences in January 2024. Stephan Brun, Group Environmental Protection Management: “Thanks to our team work and pioneering spirit, we have come a step closer to our goal of minimizing the impact on the environment caused by the production of our cars.”
Four steps to achieving our goal
So what does this mean specifically for production in Ingolstadt? One of the key factors in achieving our goal is Mission:Zero, Audi’s environmental program for delivering systematically sustainable production and logistics. Over the last few years, this program has combined activities and measures for reducing the environmental footprint at Audi sites worldwide. Four steps were defined for the plant in Ingolstadt as part of Mission:Zero (see graphic) for achieving certification as “net carbon-neutral”
1 at the end of the year. Step 1 is to increase energy efficiency, step 2 to generate renewable energy in-house, step 3 to purchase renewable energy and step 4 to offset the currently unavoidable emissions through climate protection projects. These measures will be pursued on an ongoing basis. An external certification company will carry out audits annually to verify that the Ingolstadt plant continues to operate on a net carbon-neutral
Step 1: Increasing energy efficiency
“The situation at the plant is no different to what happens in our homes: Energy that is saved does not have to be generated or purchased either in a conventional or carbon-neutral1 manner,” says Friedrich-Uwe Tontsch, an energy management expert at Audi Environmental Protection. As far back as 2010, Audi published annual energy-saving targets for many areas based on the consumption values from the previous year. The first energy-saving measures were quite obvious: Lighting was replaced, more efficient machines and conveyor systems were installed – and since then energy has been used more consciously. “But the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find additional savings potential,” reports Tontsch.
“What helps us in Ingolstadt is that we have already invested heavily in digitalizing our processes: We started developing our own analysis platform called Energy Analytics in 2019,” explains the energy expert. Energy Analytics is a software-based analysis system that performs live compilation, preparation and processing of large quantities of data from production processes from various sources in the company. This process is known in general as data mining. The results are then depicted visually in such a way that users can quickly identify the key points of the analysis. This allows the causes of unnecessary energy consumption to be understood and categorized more easily, savings potential to be identified and ultimately suitable measures to be derived.
How does Energy Analytics work?
But it is not only electricity and heat consumption that is recorded live. Data is first collected from various sources in a standard data format, for example data on manufactured components, energy data from painting booths or welding guns, data from consumption due to lighting or ventilation in buildings as well as environmental data such as outside temperatures. Statistical models are then developed on the basis of a dataset of 500 million from previous years, which allow consumption patterns to be predicted using historical values. “We use this as a reference point for optimizing energy consumption. If current consumption exceeds its tolerance range, this is an indicator first of all of unusual consumption,” points out Tontsch.
The data therefore helps to detect increased or reduced consumption more easily. Tontsch explains: “Because we analyze this for hundreds of energy meters, we can break down consumption anomalies on an equipment basis and inform the relevant people specifically. After all, these people know their machinery best and can therefore assess how to classify the deviation. Reduced consumption could indicate a more efficient equipment configuration and increased consumption could point to equipment that has been running, even though this was not necessary.” Even minimal deviations are identified thanks to the tool and improvements can therefore be made accordingly.
Digitalization for improved sustainability in production: visual representation of energy consumption in the Audi tool “Energy Analytics”
The energy management results are impressive: Some 35,449 megawatt hours of energy were saved at the Ingolstadt plant in 2022, for example, through the use of energy-saving measures. That’s equivalent to the average annual consumption of more than 1,400 single-family homes, and means that not only were CO₂ emissions avoided, but energy costs were also reduced by 2.4 million euros. Tontsch: “To give an example: By tracking the base load in one body shop hall, we were able to reduce the base load in 2022 by some 2,000 megawatt hours – this translates to cost savings of around 190,000 euros annually. We were able to achieve this by engaging with the relevant energy representatives on a weekly basis to discuss the base load – and keeping track therefore of anomalies in a sustained way.”
Regular tracking of the base load allowed it to be reduced at the Ingolstadt plant by more than 30 percent compared with July 2018. The base load is the output of electricity and natural gas required on a continuous basis. It represents the lowest load below which the level never falls. The base load is derived from the power consumption during night hours from Saturday to Sunday, since this is usually when the requirement for electricity and natural gas is at its lowest.
Step 2: Self-generating regenerative energy – directly on site at the plant
The progress is particularly evident from the air. Dark blue solar panels adorn numerous building roofs at the Ingolstadt plant. They are the foundation for the second step on the path to net carbon-neutral1 production: the use of self-generated renewable energy. “The photovoltaic surface at the Ingolstadt plant has grown to around 23,000 square meters in recent years – so more than three football pitches,” explains Christian Danhauser, who is responsible for electrical engineering planning within the context of energy and building technology in Ingolstadt. The expansion of the photovoltaic systems at the main plant continues to make progress, with some 41,000 square meters currently under construction or in planning.
In addition to generating electricity, Audi is focusing on carbon-neutral1 in-house generation of thermal energy. And the company is planning to gradually increase this portion also, for example, through the use of heat pumps to reuse waste heat from production processes.
Step 3: Purchasing renewable energy
The purchase of green energy is the third step. This area is the responsibility of Melanie Altinger and her colleagues. They look after heat supply and energy management. Since the beginning of 2012, Audi has exclusively purchased green electricity in Ingolstadt to produce its vehicles, making the brand with the Four Rings one of the pioneers in the industry at the time.
“When purchasing electricity for the Ingolstadt plant, we can influence many aspects that are important to us as a brand,” says energy expert Altinger. That’s because “green electricity is simply a generic term, it comes in many different guises. It’s important to us that it fits in with our sustainability goals.” This means that Audi only purchases electricity from renewable sources on the market, such as that produced in hydropower plants in Austria and Germany.
The heat supply at the Audi plant in Ingolstadt is typically 80 percent dependent on gas, which means that the purchase of gas as a fuel is also an important topic for Melanie Altinger and her colleagues. “To also achieve net carbon-neutral1 heat supply, the entire natural gas requirement will be converted to methane from biogas plants from January 1, 2024,” explains Altinger.
The experts are therefore making sure that this biogas meets the corresponding requirements. “This means that it is obtained primarily from waste, for example, and therefore does not compete with food production.”
The remaining approximately 20 percent of the heat required by the production facilities in Ingolstadt is provided by district heating. An adjacent refinery as well as the municipal waste recycling plant supply the main Audi plant with waste heat that is generated in production processes and can be reused in the Audi plant.
Step 4: Offsetting carbon emissions that are currently unavoidable through climate protection projects
The site will cover practically all of its energy requirements from renewable sources from 2024. “But there are also emissions that are currently unavoidable. And these represent the topic of the fourth step,” explains Matthias Lechner. As early as 2017, the engineer dealt with the topic of decarbonization in his master’s thesis – today, the expert in offsetting unavoidable emissions of greenhouse gases is responsible for managing the process of certifying the Audi Ingolstadt plant as a net carbon-neutral1 facility.
The remaining carbon emissions that are still being offset at present through climate protection projects come from the operation of test rigs, for example, on which diesel and petrol engines are tested, or from company vehicles powered by combustion engines. Emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning systems are also included here. Matthias Lechner: “Offsetting emissions through the purchase of carbon compensation certificates is and always will be the last measure. Our aim with this fourth step is to offset a maximum of 10 percent of all carbon emissions through external projects.”
Audi purchases compensation certificates for this purpose, which meet the strict requirements of the Gold Standard. This standard was established in 2003 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other international NGOs to ensure a high standard of quality for climate protection projects that reduce CO₂ emissions. Gold Standard projects not only characterize ecological but also social aspects that contribute to achieving sustainability goals. Only selected climate protection projects achieve this independent quality standard. “We are using the certificates to invest exclusively in climate protection projects that fit in with Audi and with our philosophy,” explains Lechner. “Examples include wind turbines in the Global South, where there is a demonstrable CO₂ reduction.”
What are compensation certificates?
The goal of emissions trading is to reduce the emission of environmentally harmful gases on a market economy basis. It is a complex set of rules which, among other things, provides impetus for investment in climate-friendly technologies. One option for protecting the climate is to offset CO₂ or other greenhouse gas emissions by financing climate change projects. Companies – but also individuals or organizations – offset their remaining emissions in this way and therefore contribute to climate protection. More information on the details can be found on the corresponding website of the German Environment Agency.
Our goal at a glance
Offsetting emissions through compensation certificates is just one of Matthias Lechner’s responsibilities. He also manages the process of certifying the Ingolstadt plant as a net carbon-neutral¹ facility. The site’s net carbon neutrality1 is verified by an external expert assessment as part of a comprehensive certification process. The independent certification company confirms the effectiveness of the measures in this way.
The assessment also verifies whether the amount of CO₂ currently emitted corresponds to the amount that is offset. “Our certification is not a one-off. We act from a sense of conviction and are committed to an annual audit in Ingolstadt from 2024,” says Lechner.
This also means repeating the four steps again and again. Lechner: “Our goal is to increase energy efficiency year after year, to encourage increased production of green energy internally and to successively reduce the amount of external energy we purchase so that we ultimately have to offset fewer emissions through the purchase of certificates. The individual steps therefore complement each other mutually.”
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