Electric cars cut down on carbon emissions so it makes sense that their factories should too. The Audi E-tron will be manufactured from a CO2-Neutral factory in Brussels.
One of the reasons people are choosing to go electric when it comes to their car is that it’s supposed to be more environmentally friendly. A common criticism has been that the factories that make the EV’s actually produce more CO2 emissions during manufacturing than conventional cars. The manufacturing of an electric vehicle can result in 15-68% more emissions (depending on the size of the vehicle and its battery capacity). The same study found that once the cars hit the road their low emissions close the gap.
Fortunately, Audi is taking lowering its emissions seriously and the E-tron will be manufactured in a CO2 neutral facility. This is their first factory producing premium, high-volume electric vehicles to be certified as carbon-neutral by the European Commission. As we drove around the 540,000 square meter factory you could see E-tron’s ready to be delivered sitting around the lot. The factory went into full-scale production there last September.
The plant is currently expanding to be able to handle higher volumes. Since summer 2016, the body shop, paint shop and assembly shop step by step have been remodeled and they’ve established their own battery manufacturing facility.
The highlight of the factory, besides seeing half built Audi’s pass overhead was seeing automated vehicles bring battery’s, engine’s and axles to the “just in sequence” assembly line. I stepped in front of one of these autonomous-obstacle-sensing moving platforms, it beeped warning me it was close and stopped a safe distance from me.
Robots fill this state of the art factory. They assemble batteries, welded pieces together, and spin cars through the air as the battery platform and chassis grow in size as they move from station to station.
This 70 year old plant has received regular upgrades over the years and the latest is a conversion from producing Audi A1’s to the E-tron.
In the journey of going green, they’ve set up a 37,000-square-meter photovoltaic farm on the rooftop, which cranks out 3,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. This saves the complex 700 metric tons of CO2—equal to the yearly energy use of about 85 homes. The solar cells, which nearly blanket the facility’s multiple structures, reduce the plant’s total grid-based electricity consumption by 95 percent. The factory also puts a dent in its electricity consumption by using high-efficiency heat exchangers to control the temperature of different areas in the factory, which Audi estimates saves it another 4,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Audi is also the only EV manufacturer in the world to assemble its batteries under the same roof as the car itself. The cells come from LG, but the design and assembly of the actual modules is solely an Audi effort.
The carmaker says it finds the rest of its carbon savings by making environmental choices when it can. For example, Audi purchases carbon credits to offset less savory but, for now, necessary practices, like the incineration of used solvents from the assembly process. It also uses biogas to heat the facility.
Audi has committed to making its production facilities carbon-neutral by 2030, even if it’s manufacturing internal combustion engines inside them. VW has said that the Stuttgart factory set to start producing all-electric Porsche Taycans by the end of the year will be carbon-neutral
We can only hope that Audi is leading the way for the entire Volkswagen line, which includes Bentley, Porsche. Audi has long been considered the most technologically advanced car line in the group, we wouldn’t be surprised if they led the way in manufacturing as well.