It’s a feat most can only dream of: going completely carbon neutral. It’s insanely difficult to pull off, as nearly every action we make has some impact on the environment. But it can be done, and on impressively large scales. Lowering your own carbon footprint is commendable, but how about a car manufacturing plant breaking even?
Volvo, a car company based out of Sweden, recently announced that one of their engine factories has managed to go completely carbon neutral. The factory, located in Skovde, is supposedly just the first of many. The company plans for all their plants and operations globally to be carbon neutral by 2025. It’s an ambitious goal, but one they believe they can achieve.
Javier Varela, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing and Logistics at Volvo, says “[i]mproving energy efficiency is our first priority and then, for the energy we need to use, we aim for supplies generated from renewable sources.” Such sources include waste incineration, biomass, and recycled bio-fuel. This is only for the heating, as a side note- the electricity at the Skovde plant has been provided by renewable resources since 2008. Varela continued, saying “[w]e will continue to work actively with our energy suppliers in all regions to secure further access to renewable energy for our manufacturing plants.”
Director for Sustainability at Volvo cars, Stuart Templar, also commented: “The Skovde plant achievement is an important addition to our broader efforts in minimizing our environmental footprint. We are pleased to be a leader within the automotive industry in the move towards climate-neutral manufacturing… Environment care is one of our core values. Along with our plan to electrify all new Volvo cars launched from 2019, climate-neutral manufacturing operations will significantly reduce our overall carbon footprint, supporting global efforts to tackle climate change.”
Why is this such a big deal, though? Electrifying the cars is more likely to have an impact on the environment, with emissions and usage of fossil fuels both going down. But according to a study from 2010, creating a new car has just as much of a carbon footprint as driving it. In other words, what may be advertised as being better for the environment on the road might not be the same in the factory. However, because of Volvo’s commitment to both lowering the carbon production of both their vehicles and their plants, it means that the carbon footprint is indeed significantly lessened.
For comparison, look at Tesla, another car company dedicated to more environment-friendly vehicles. The Union for Concerned Scientists conducted tests on the manufacturing of a full-sized Tesla Model S rear-wheel drive car with an 85 KWH battery produced more CO2 emissions than a standard internal-combustion car. The increase came from the production of the battery, which added an extra metric ton of CO2 to the process. However, the Union also conceded that this was overall minor compared to the complete lack of any emissions caused by operating the vehicle, even when adjusting the electricity for having been generated by coal.
What Volvo is doing in their Skovde plant is revolutionary and frankly, quite promising. As one of the more popular luxury car brands in the world, it would make sense for other car companies- luxury and standard alike- to want to follow suit. This could result in several changes coming to the way cars are manufactured, powered, and maybe even designed- which may even cause the creation of new jobs. If nothing else, it shows that anybody and anything can lower their carbon footprint if they put forth the effort. Clean living, building, and driving is entirely possible, and it’s a breath of fresh air.