All signs point towards the future > Sustainability > Audi New Zealand
Audi New Zealand Sustainability
All signs point towards the future
The Audi Q8 e-tron{ft_q8-e-tron} in the middle of the photovoltaic installation.The Audi Q8 e-tron{ft_q8-e-tron} in the middle of the photovoltaic installation.

Located in the south-western part of Belgium’s Brussels-Capital Region is a centre for sustainable mobility: Audi Brussels. The manufacturing plant not only produces the new Audi Q8 e-tron. It is also particularly progressive in terms of decarbonisation in manufacturing: “We are the first Audi plant to achieve a carbon-neutral* footprint during the production of our vehicles, which has also been certified since 2018,” explains Christian Stragier, Environmental Officer at Audi Brussels. This also makes the site the world’s first carbon-neutral large-scale production facility in the premium segment to be certified by independent experts.

This success was achieved through a package of measures. A lion’s share of the CO₂ savings (approx. 95 percent) is due to the switch to renewable energies. For example, the plant, which covers almost 54 hectares, uses only Belgian green electricity and biogas purchased from all over Europe. The site also produces its own energy. Here, one of the region’s largest photovoltaic systems covering an area of around 107,000 square meters generates around 9,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year.

Cathodic dip coating of a car body.Cathodic dip coating of a car body.
Portrait shot of Jan Maris.Portrait shot of Jan Maris.

Our philosophy: A premium vehicle can only be created in a premium environment.

Jan Maris

What’s equally important: saving energy. “It mainly requires a change in attitude,” says Jan Maris, Production Manager at Audi Brussels. His team in body shop, paint shop and assembly faced many challenges during the switch to e-mobility. Before there was the large, electric Audi e-tron, they built the comparatively small Audi A1 equipped with a combustion engine in Brussels until 2018. So, it was not only the drive technology and various work processes that changed, but also the size and weight of the vehicles. The facilities had to be enlarged and converted accordingly. And then, battery production, a completely new area for Audi, moved onto the plant site. The conversion phase, which was carried out without interrupting production, took two years, during which large parts of the workforce were given further training or were retrained.

At the same time, they assessed the production processes for their future potential, optimising them to enable greater sustainability. For example, the hall temperature was reduced from 22 to 18 degrees Celsius, and the lights in the halls are switched off during breaks and 20 percent dimmed during operation. Many fully automated systems now operate in the dark, while others have been replaced by more resource-efficient alternatives. “For us, this is a philosophy: A premium vehicle can only be created in a premium environment,” Maris points out. And premium, as Audi agrees, can no longer be possible without striving for sustainability, especially in electric vehicles.

 
Audi Q8 e-tron body in the so-called dryer.

The Belgian site generates some of the energy for the dryers for the painted car bodies itself, with the rest coming from Belgian green electricity.

Audi Brussels has thus established a role model function when it comes to decarbonisation, from which other plants in the Group can also draw inspiration and learn, reveals Christian Stragier. After all, by 2025 all Audi sites are to have a carbon-neutral* production; this is one of the main goals of Audi’s “Mission:Zero” environmental programme.

But even in Brussels, the mission isn’t completed yet. The site is continuously looking for ideas to save an additional three percent of energy per year. Time and again, the manufacturing plant achieves new milestones in the process. From the end of 2023, for example, the neighbouring wastewater treatment plant will process the wastewater from Audi Brussels into so-called grey water, which will then be reused in production. This will save a good 100,000 cubic meters of drinking water per year. With an eye to the future, Environmental Officer Stragier has put the search for alternative energy sources to replace gas at the top of his agenda.

We are the first Audi plant to achieve a carbon-neutral footprint during the production of our vehicles.

Christian Stragier

Portrait shot of Christian Stragier.Portrait shot of Christian Stragier.
Bird’s eye view of the Brussels manufacturing plant.Bird’s eye view of the Brussels manufacturing plant.

According to Jan Maris, innovations such as artificial intelligence could leverage even more potential in production in the future. Examples already exist, such as FinRob. The collaborative robot uses a sensor to detect whether enough adhesive has been used between the folds of a car door – in the past, the doors needed to be split open at random for that purpose. “We now save many tons of CO₂ because we don’t have to scrap the materials.” In addition, thinking beyond the confines of the site is also necessary to ensure that a car like the Audi Q8 e-tron* can ultimately be built in a sustainable way. For example, Audi requires suppliers to produce battery cells exclusively with energy from renewable sources. And parts produced at other locations that are needed to complete the Audi Q8 e-tron*, such as battery modules, are not transported by lorry, but are delivered to the Brussels site by zero-emissions freight train from the Audi plant in Györ, Hungary. These are all measures to save CO₂.

Currently, around five percent of emissions at the Brussels plant are offset by environmental projects in order to be carbon-neutral* , as they cannot yet be avoided in any other way – this includes emissions caused by production-related business trips, for example. For Stragier, the goal is clear: keeping up the good work so that the need for offsets can be further reduced. “A zero-impact factory, an energy-autonomous company with closed loops, that would be the vision.”

A finished Audi Q8 e-tron being quality checked.A finished Audi Q8 e-tron being quality checked.
 
Front view of the Audi Q8 e-tron.

A lasting impression

Whether you are opting for a classic SUV or a coupe-like Sportback, the new, fully electric Audi Q8 e-tron* impresses with its progressive design, long range, higher charging capacity, and exciting technology highlights.