BMW focuses on sustainable production
BMW Group production facilities utilize a variety of methods to achieve an ambitious goal: using exclusively renewable energy in the production of premium vehicles around the world. In South Africa, BMW Plant Rosslyn even uses some four-legged friends to produce energy.
The BMW Group’s biomass project is located about 60 km from the Rosslyn Plant in the Gauteng Province, north of the South African capital of Pretoria. Here, the BMW Group operates the first economically viable biogas power plant in Africa. The “producers” of the biogas are roughly 25,000 cows from a neighboring organic cattle farm.
These cows create the raw materials necessary for the biogas fermentation process. Bacteria are then used to produce methane gas, which is converted into energy by four generators. The energy produced covers around 30% of Plant Rosslyn’s energy needs. The use of biomass for energy production has benefits beyond efficient, clean power: it is sustainable, recycles organic waste and helps reduce harmful methane gas emissions.
Originally, the BMW plant in South Africa, which produces just under 300 vehicles a day, was powered by coal-burning power plants, as the property sits atop large lignite coal reserves. At the time, only 2% of energy came from renewable sources. Since the coast is about 600 km away, there is not enough wind power to operate wind turbines. Portions of the production process were powered by hot water from solar energy, but the solar panels were not efficient enough to supply the whole plant. Before the BMW Group could begin outfitting the plant with alternative energy sources, significant research and innovative thinking were needed. It was then that the BMW Group decided to utilise the biomass of neighboring farms. “Here in South Africa, we had to look for new ways to get renewable energy. Gauteng Province is an agricultural stronghold in the region. As a result, a biomass power plant seemed like an obvious alternative, as raw materials like manure and organic waste are always available in large quantities,” said Tim Abbott, CEO of BMW Group South Africa. The plant is on track to be completely carbon neutral by 2020. This is also made possible by new, state-of-the-art solar panels, which produce heat as well as electricity. This heat can be used in the paint shop, for instance.
Plant Rosslyn is one of many BMW Group sustainable energy projects around the world. The 31 production facilities now play an increasingly important role in contributing to the first class ranking of the BMW Group in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). The DJSI is the stock index whose portfolio is made up of companies that operate in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways. In 2016, the BMW Group again ranked at the top of several sustainability indices and received a number of awards. “Not only are our cars low-emission, we want to produce them in a climate-neutral way. Our goal is to increase the share of alternative energy used in production to 100% in the coming years,” said Jury Witsching, Sustainability Manager at the BMW Group. The BMW Group currently meets 51% of its energy needs through renewable sources.
Like Plant Rosslyn, the BMW Plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA, also uses methane gas to power part of the production process. However, the raw materials in Spartanburg come from a local landfill about 16 km away. From there, it is transported via a pipeline into the plant, where it is converted into electricity and heat. 50% of the plant’s energy needs are supplied in this way. In 2016, energy savings totalled $3.5 million per year. Another example is the BMW Plant in Moses Lake (USA): all of the electricity used there comes from the Columbia River’s hydroelectric power stations.
Another link in this sustainability chain is the Tiexi Plant in the Chinese city of Shenyang. BMW engineers were able to reduce the plant’s energy consumption to a record low, despite the fact that temperatures in Shenyang range from +40 °C in the summer to -35 °C in the winter, making efficient energy management quite a challenge. Cooling towers and a water cooling system provide cooling during the warm season. Thermal wheels, a heating facility, and even the excess heat from welding tongs deliver sustainable heat when the outside temperature dips in the winter months. All components of the vehicle body are made on site, so there are no additional CO2 emissions from transportation.
The BMW Plant in Leipzig, Germany, where the all-electric BMW i3 and BMW i8 models are manufactured, is a pioneer in wind power production. In 2013, the BMW Group commissioned four wind turbines with a total output of 10 MW in Leipzig. That’s enough to produce 26,000 MWh of electricity. The wind turbines cover roughly one fifth of Plant Leipzig’s total power demand.
Intelligently implemented innovations – however small – yield an impressive effect. Even a simple change in the PC power settings of BMW Group associates saves around 27,000 MWh of electricity annually.
The BMW Group’s vision is to be the most successful and sustainable premium provider of individual mobility. To achieve this, the company has set ten strategic sustainability goals running through 2020. The goals focus on three areas: “Products and Services,” “Production and Value Creation” and “Employees and Society”.
The BMW Group is reducing CO2 and pollutant emissions in order to protect the climate and air quality. The BMW Group portfolio’s move towards lower-emission, more fuel-efficient vehicles is in line with the wishes of many of our customers. Since 2007, our BMW i project has been developing electric vehicles, and has resulted in completely new concepts for individual mobility.