While it may look blue-gray to the naked eye and not green, the cuboid-shaped building in Munich’s Allach does mark a milestone in the MAN climate strategy, namely to create a “Green Factory.” After all, the building, complete with its gas tanks and narrow chimneys, houses the CHP plant, which is part of MAN’s truck plant and began operations in 2017. Two natural gas units, each with an output of 2.5 megawatts, enable a significant share of the electricity required at the plant to be generated directly on site. This saves a whopping 9,500 tons of CO₂ emissions a year. The waste heat produced during power generation is used to keep the plant premises warm.
Everything is taken care of, even in case things get a bit too hot: cooling ceiling systems with well water flowing through them are used to lower the temperature on site, something that usually requires a great deal of energy. The rest of the plant’s buildings will then be connected to the system, one by one. “The CHP plant and the well water system in Munich are just two of a number of measures we are implementing worldwide in order to reach the goals of our climate strategy,” Peter Attin, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Volkswagen Truck & Bus and MAN, demonstrates the link between the Group’s various initiatives and sustainable climate protection. If we want to see how far-reaching the impact of those initiatives is, it is worth taking a look beyond Germany’s borders:
For instance at the IJsselmeer lake in the Netherlands, where the Group’s commitment to sustainability reaches truly gigantic proportions. The solar roof that Scania installed atop its plant in Zwolle in 2017 is the size of almost eight soccer fields. This impressive system is made up of 22,000 solar panels with a combined total output of six megawatts. “Scania is firmly committed to reducing its carbon footprint,” says Ruthger de Vries, Executive Vice President and Head of Production and Logistics at Scania. “We have set ourselves ambitious targets and are well on our way to becoming carbon-neutral.”
In light of these targets, the logical next step is for Scania to focus on wind power, in addition to solar energy, and to build two wind turbines on its plant premises in Zwolle. The company’s extraordinary commitment is valued by the local authorities: “As one of the biggest employers in our province, Scania shows that it is taking the energy transition very seriously,” says Annemieke Traag, member of the Executive Council of the Province of Overijssel for Energy, the Environment, and European Affairs.
In order to see the third milestone the Group has reached in this respect, we have to travel all the way to Brazil, to Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus. A highly automated factory in Resende, a town near Rio de Janeiro, manufactures trucks. Every day, 38 robots get to work at its production facilities, which are equipped with a prismatic daylight system.
The natural light produced by this system is equivalent to 114,400 watts of artificial lighting, reducing energy consumption considerably. New testing premises next door have been equipped with a rainwater filter system to rule out any soil water or groundwater contamination.
The Latin American factory is also sustainable when it comes to its water consumption: wastewater is reused where possible. Where this is not a feasible option, a processing system is used to ensure that the wastewater does not contaminate any potable water. “Our factory may be young, but it was developed in due consideration of sustainability aspects,” Roberto Cortes, CEO of Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus, emphasizes. “And we are systematically continuing our journey toward sustainability: our newest buildings combine more efficient technological processes with solutions to attenuate environmental impact. It is our duty to always make sustainability our number one priority.”
Incidentally, that goal has already become reality at Volkswagen Truck & Bus’s southernmost site: MAN’s first entirely climate-neutral commercial vehicles plant began operations in Pinetown, South Africa, in 2015. Skylights installed in the roof of the buildings and a new insulation system lower energy consumption. Rainwater tanks ensure that water is used sparingly, while wastewater is recycled. Most importantly, however, 860 tons of CO₂ are saved every year and 810,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity are generated thanks to the photovoltaic systems spread across a 6,300-square-meter area on the roofs. Not only does this generate enough energy to make the plant self-sufficient—any excess power is also supplied to the local grids.
In other words, Pinetown has already made the future of sustainability a reality. Various measures are also used to drastically lower emissions at other sites across the globe. As part of this process, they simultaneously create the foundation for long-term, sustainable value-creation that will have an increasingly more important part to play over the coming years.