The auto maker Volvo now plans to build its vehicles using steel that is manufactured through process that does not use fossil fuels by 2026. This is a part of a deal that could help the company to significantly reduce its carbon emissions from its vehicle manufacturing process.
A letter of intent for commercialization of technology that replaces coal with hydrogen in one of the key parts of the processes was signed by the Swedish carmaker and compatriot steelmaker SSAB.
According to analysts and experts, significant contribution to global carbon emissions is made by the steel manufacturing process but it is also a sector that is amongst the hardest to decarbonize. When coking coal is used to remove oxygen from iron ore in blastfurnaces, huge amounts of energy is used while there is also a release of significant amounts of carbon dioxide.
About 35 per cent of the total carbon emitted during production of petrol and diesel cars of Volvo is accounted for by the steel used in them, estimates the company. In contrast, in the case of the electric vehicles made by the company, carbon emissions from steel used accounts for 20 per cent despite the manufacturing process of these cars use up significantly more energy in manufacturing of batteries used to power these cars. However according to analysts and experts, the average resource and energy used over the entire the lifetime of an electric car is believed to be significantly lower than petrol and diesel cars.
There can be reduction of up to 90 per cent of emissions in the steelmaking process if it is possible to replace coking coal with hydrogen, according to experts.
Following the deal with SSAB, Volvo Cars, owned by the Chinese carmaker Geely is expected to be the first brand to make use of low emission steel. But it is still some time away for SSAB to test the safety of low emission steel and to enhance production to commercial scale.
Volvo expects that it would be able to use such steel in a concept car by 2025 while it hopes it can sue lower emission steel in its commercially produced vehicles by 2026 at the earliest. If that is possible, Volvo would be able to bring down the average emissions from its cars prior to its self-declared deadline of 2030 of making only battery powered vehicles only. Volvo has also set for itself a deadline of 2040 to become completely carbon neutral.
The car making company was also in talks with other steelmakers in Europe and the United States related to low emission steel making technology, said Kerstin Enochsson, Volvo’s head of procurement. She however said that the company was finding making progress in this matter to be slow in China – the largest car market of the world, because of difficulties to secure renewable energy.
The availability of abundant renewable energy, particularly in northern Sweden, makes Volvo is a good candidate to develop the cleaner steel technology. It is crucial that access to renewable energy be available for firms to make zero-emissions hydrogen from water with electricity instead of depending on a fossil fuel process that will still cause carbon emissions.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)