OEMs have been installing renewable energy sources to reduce energy costs and comply with legislation but the focus is now moving to the manufacturing process itself

PSA Peugeot-Citroën has stated that by 2015 it wants to reduce energy consumption during manufacturing to 2MW per vehicle. GM has also set aggressive targets to reduce consumption in production by 20% over the ten-year period from 2010. Ford set a target to improve North America manufacturing energy efficiency by 3% from 2010 to 2011, falling just short at 2.6%. However, it has stepped up targets by pledging a 25% average reduction per vehicle globally by 2016.

Ford’s 2012 sustainability report revealed it had reduced the amount of energy required to produce each vehicle in its manufacturing facilities by 22% in the last six years. “Sustainability has moved from the periphery to the centre of our strategy for succeeding in the marketplace and is helping to address global challenges,” explains Robert Brown, Ford’s vice-president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering. “Our sustainability report is far from a bunch of tables and charts. Anyone who spends any amount of time with it will truly get a sense of just how committed Ford is to supporting positive change and reducing the environmental impact of its products and facilities.”

The amount of electricity used to produce each vehicle in Ford’s manufacturing facilities has been reduced by about 800 kilowatthours – from 3,576kwh in 2006 to 2,778kwh in 2011. By comparison, average households in California, New York and Michigan use from 562kwh to 799kwh monthly. Ford’s progress has been achieved by investing in energy-saving practices and equipment. At the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, the company uses a new threewet paint application that reduces electricity use along with CO2 and Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions.

Challenging targets

As Peugeot discovered, the energy cost per vehicle metric can at times be a challenging goal. The OEM appeared to be well on its way to achieving a reduction to 2MW per vehicle but slow production caused by lack of demand late in 2012 scuppered its plans. “We thought that we could reach our goals of 2MW this year but because of the slow production at the end of the year we know that we will not reach them,” admits François Desmonts, responsible for industrial environment at PSA. “I think we will reach 2.14MW this year but we hope that we can reach it by 2013.”

However, it is not just the OEMs that need to take care of the MWs. The results of an Energetics report prepared for the US Department of Energy confirmed that the majority of the energy required to manufacture and assemble an automobile transmission system is expended in the supply chain.

Approximately 88-92% of all energy is consumed prior to the arrival of parts at the OEM plant for final assembly. Furthermore, approximately 87% of the energy associated with the production of the transmission system was consumed during the production and processing of virgin steel and aluminium parts. The production and processing of these occurs in different manufacturing plants throughout the supply chain, under a variety of conditions, equipment, standards, and manufacturing protocols.