Green Future – Building Cars, but Sustainably

The EU wants to be climate neutral by 2050. A contributor will be the smallest possible CO2 footprint of vehicles. Vehicle manufacturers are already applying the brakes in their production by reducing the CO2 balance. Škoda recently reached another milestone in its Green Future Strategy: the complete recycling of production waste.

Skoda will den CO2-Fußabdruck bereits in der Produktion verringern. Foto: Shutterstock - Media Bay

Skoda wants to reduce the carbon footprint already in production. Photo: Shutterstock – Media Bay

125 years ago, the Czech manufacturer – at that time still called Laurin&Klement – started building bicycles, thus balancing a small carbon footprint. Škoda wants to keep it that way with its cars, too. Under the umbrella of the Volkswagen Group, Škoda is banking on a three-pillar model in its Green Future strategy: Green Factory, Green Product, Green Retail. This is a holistic approach that covers the automobile’s entire life cycle from extraction of raw materials to scrapping. In addition to recycling, the focus also lies on energy and water consumption. If the plan works out, Škoda wants to reduce the external environmental effects of production, such as CO2, water, or waste, by 45 percent per vehicle by 2025 compared to 2010.

A successful step in this direction was recently announced by Michael Oeljeklaus, Škoda Board Member for Production and Logistics. All waste in vehicle production is being 100 percent recycled. Even when conventional disposal would be cheaper. However, the topic of “waste” begins many stages earlier – with prevention. This is easier to achieve in modern production facilities than in existing ones.

Reduce waste, save energy and resources

In August 2019, Škoda opened a paint shop at its headquarters in Mladá Boleslav that operates with considerably lower energy consumption and also scores points in waste reduction – which is particularly important in car painting, where so-called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions are produced and limit values must be observed. Hardly any paint sludge accumulates because paint residues are bound by ground limestone instead of water. The cleaning system reduces paint residues by more than two kilograms per body, which ultimately winds up in thermal recycling in the heating plant of subsidiary ŠkoEnergo. The new paint shop also saves Škoda 210 grams of solvent and 17 percent clear lacquer per vehicle. The carmaker has invested 214.5 million euros in this project.

Kamila Biddle, responsible for Corporate Communications, stresses: “It’s not possible to be part of a globally networked world without accepting and assuming our share of responsibility for the environment and future generations.”

A further reason for the manufacturer’s efforts may also be the stricter EU directives on CO2 reduction. By 2030, CO2 emissions for new cars must be 37.5 percent (passenger cars) and 31 percent (commercial vehicles) below 2021 emission limits. This calculation also takes vehicle production into account.

Manufacturers want to produce CO2-neutral

The Škoda parent company Volkswagen, for example, wants to manage CO2 avoidance and reduction more strictly, especially in the electric mobility area, because the production of battery cells is energy-intensive – right up to the extraction of raw materials. The Stuttgart-based carmaker Mercedes-Benz is also setting itself ambitious goals: by 2039, the entire fleet shall be completely CO2 neutral. And Mercedes announced in May that the production in its plants will be CO2-neutral as early as 2022 – worldwide, not just in Europe. In its manufacturing operations, the Group is focusing on energy efficiency, green electricity, and sustainable heat supply for factories, including biogas and heat pumps.

So there is no car manufacturer who doesn’t take sustainability as its guiding principle and doesn’t set individual priorities. Sometimes the road even leads “back to the roots”: at Škoda, you can drive back to the future in an environmentally friendly way – on the new electric mountain bikes of the Škoda Bicycle Collection 2020.

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