Volkswagen Aims to Fully Electrify Its Fleet, And Save 17 tons of CO2 per vehicle by 2030

A rendering of Volkswagen’s North American assembly base for electric vehicles in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

(Credit: Volkswagen)

by | Mar 21, 2023

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Volkswagen is a German car company, which became the globe’s biggest auto manufacturer in 2016. Its largest market is China, where it derived 40% of its sales and profits. It has emphasized electric vehicles since 2017 and says it will produce at least 30 EV models by 2025.

Volkswagen aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. It will reduce its fleet’s CO2 footprint by 40% in Europe by 2030 from the base year of 2018. That goal considers the whole lifecycle, from the supply chain to production to the use phase and recycling.

“Whether the earth warms by 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 has a major impact on developments such as species extinction, droughts, and rising sea levels,” says Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, Dr. Herbert Diess. The Volkswagen Group is taking responsibility to protect the world for future generations. That is why we are sharpening our own emissions reduction targets in production after less than two years. We are pleased that the Science Based Targets initiative recognizes this.”

VW gets 96% of its external electricity from renewable sources at its sites in the European Union. It plans to get all of it from sustainable sources next year. By 2030, VW plans to use green energy globally with the exception of China.

VW will also invest $15 billion into decarbonization, saving 17 tons of CO2 per vehicle by 2030. Apart from the supply of renewable energies, the main reasons are the electrification of the product portfolio and Volkswagen’s support for the expansion, it says.

Last year, Volkswagen says it delivered more electric vehicles worldwide than ever: 369,000 electric cars (+73 percent versus 2020), including approximately 106,000 plug-in hybrid EVs (+33 percent) and 263,000 all-electric vehicles (+97 percent). The production, including supply chains and operation of electric cars, are to be made net carbon neutral.

The goal is the full electrification of the new vehicle fleet. By 2030, at least 70% of all Volkswagen’s European sales will be all-electric vehicles. In North America and China, the share of electric vehicles in unit sales could reach 50%.

“By significantly exceeding our CO2 targets once again, we have demonstrated our fast and systematic approach to sustainability and the transformation towards e-mobility through our ACCELERATE strategy,” said Volkswagen CEO Ralf Brandstätter. “We are thus making an important contribution to meeting the Paris climate goals.” It is adding to the momentum this year with new models.

What about battery recycling?

While VW has committed that after eight years, or 100,000 miles, 80% of the battery capacity will still be available. Inevitably, VW must repurpose the battery by bundling a bunch of used batteries to form a much bigger one. That helps power both Volkswagen plants and cooperative projects with suppliers and cities. Further, some older batteries can work in electric cars by replacing certain parts.

At some point, there will come a time to recycle them. “The batteries are dismantled, crushed, and reprocessed. Here, raw materials such as nickel, copper, and cobalt are recovered in large quantities and can then, for example, be reused in the production of new battery cells.” Says Tobias Enge, a group strategist in the business field of e-mobility and infrastructure. This ensures we keep waste to a minimum while manufacturing our batteries.

Indeed, lithium-ion batteries are the cornerstone of the New Energy Economy — driving the growth of electrification and decarbonization. Indeed, they are central to everything from cell phones to electric vehicles to grid storage.

But the value of such devices lies beneath the surface — made up of raw materials that are now trapped in a supply chain maze or come from unfriendly nations. Luckily, the recycling of those raw materials is becoming economically viable. Moreover, the quality of the reprocessed minerals can be as good as “virgin” supplies that are extracted from the Earth. However, mining must coexist alongside recycling until those scraps reach scale.

“We break down the batteries and extract critical materials. We refine those materials to produce chemicals that go back into batteries,” says Tim Johnston, co-founder and executive chair of Li-Cycle Holding Corp., in a chat with this writer.

“Those chemicals are the same as any mined materials: they are broken down to a molecular level, the metals are dissolved, and we rebuild them,” he adds. “We can recover up to 95% of all the materials in the lithium battery and return them to new batteries or to the economy. This is a net environmental benefit relative to mining these materials. Going to one source to process the materials is more efficient than the supply chain. There are fewer emissions, less water usage, and less soil displacement.”

Tesla may be a harbinger of things to come. It expects to sell 20 million electric vehicles by 2030 — a company that thinks it can recover 92% of a battery’s materials. While fossil fuels are extracted and used once, recycling allows the raw materials to have an afterlife. And Tesla says that recycling costs much less than purchasing those minerals to build new batteries

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