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Volkswagen boss details carbon neutrality roadmap

Advantage, not burden: VW CEO Ralf Brandst├Ątter sees carbon neutrality and all the associated costs as a business advantage rather than a burden.

Volkswagen targets 40% reduction in CO2 by 2030, total carbon neutrality by 2050

30 Apr 2021

VOLKSWAGEN has outlined its roadmap for climate-neutral mobility at the inaugural Way to Zero Convention where the brand committed to a 40 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions per vehicle (in Europe) by the end of the decade.


This new commitment is a stepping stone in the brand’s journey towards total carbon neutrality, a milestone executives hope to reach by “2050 at the latest”.


According to Volkswagen CEO Ralf Brandstätter, the wider Volkswagen Group’s carbon footprint in 2020 was 369 million tonnes of CO2 with almost €14 billion ($A21.8b) to be invested in decarbonisation by 2025.


“We are well aware that our size means we have a particular responsibility. And that is especially true for the Volkswagen brand, as it constitutes 60 per cent of Group sales,” he said.


“So that is why we have set ourselves a new, ambitious intermediate goal that we are pursuing across the Group: by 2030 we aim to reduce the CO2 emissions per vehicle in Europe by 40 per cent compared to 2018.


“This will mean that the average Volkswagen emits around 17 tonnes less of CO2 over its lifecycle. In 2050, Volkswagen will have a climate-neutral balance. That’s our Way to Zero.”


The Way to Zero will reportedly encompass four main focal points: vehicle electrification, their production, energy supply and battery recycling.


In terms of vehicle electrification, Mr Brandstätter says Volkswagen will launch at least one new electric model every year with “at least” 70 per cent of all vehicles sold in Europe to be electric by 2030.


“Following on from the ID.3 and ID.4, we recently presented the ID.4 GTX, our electric performance model,” he said.


“The ID.6 X/ID.6 Crozz – our first MEB vehicle designed especially for the Chinese market – has also joined the line-up.


“The ID.5 will launch at the end of 2021, followed in 2022 by the ID.Buzz, the new electric version of the iconic model. And 2025 will see the addition of a small electric Volkswagen for the entry-level segment.”


To counteract the considerable CO2 emissions resulting from the production of electric vehicles – around double that of an equivalent internal combustion engine vehicle – Volkswagen has introduced the Zero Impact Factory programme which systematically identifies the CO2 hotspots of the brand’s factories and explores greener solutions.


Green solutions are also under study for powering electric vehicles over the ‘use phase’ of their lifecycles with two of the frontrunners thus far being solar and wind energy – energy sources Volkswagen is prepared to invest in directly.


“With them (solar and wind farms), the aim is to produce and feed into the grid as much green power as would be needed to run the vehicles in the ID. family on a daily basis with renewable energy,” Mr Brandstätter said.


“By 2025, this will result in an additional seven terawatt hours of green electricity in Europe, equivalent to more than 300 wind turbines.”


To make this happen, Volkswagen has partnered with green electricity specialist RWE Renewables, whose CEO Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath said as two of the biggest players in their respective industries, Volkswagen and RWE had both “the will and the capability to make an important contribution”.


“Initially, RWE will be procuring large quantities of green power for Volkswagen from one of Germany’s biggest solar parks,” she said.


“We’re also planning renewable energy projects of our own that will receive a powerful boost through supply contracts with Volkswagen.”


Once an EV has reached the end of its use phase, the batteries will reportedly live on as an energy storage unit in a charging station before eventually being recycled with the ultimate goal being a closed loop with a recycling rate of more than 90 per cent for valuable raw materials.


Despite the huge investments going forward, Mr Brandstätter said he views decarbonsation as a competitive advantage rather than a financial burden with sustainability becoming “an ever more decisive factor in the success of companies”.


“Volkswagen’s greatest strength has always been to make innovative technologies available to a broad customer base,” he said.


“We are now translating this great brand promise into the new age of zero-emission mobility. We want to make Volkswagen the most desirable brand for sustainable mobility.”


Such plans are unlikely to be applied to or formulated in Australia any time soon with the local arm of Volkswagen, Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA), citing government inaction and a lack of enthusiasm for electric vehicle technologies.


That is not to say Volkswagen electric vehicles are not headed Down Under with the first models of the new ID. portfolio due to enter showrooms sometime next year.

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