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How to reduce the carbon footprint of the automotive sector?

26 February 2021

Mobility comes with huge emissions. The future of automotive vehicles requires investment in electric and hydrogen engines. This will ensure that the automotive sector contributes far less to the production of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

Road transport is responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. It makes sense to rely on renewable fuels to significantly reduce CO2 production.

What are the greenhouse gas emissions of cars?

Systematic studies show that transport generates around 25-30% of the annual proportion of total CO2 emissions in the European Union. Electromobility projects aim to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of this sector. However, the problem is the measurability of these figures. Strategies to reduce emissions associated with the transport sector are concerned with the way we travel and the modernisation of the transport system. Automotive, however, is not only about transport but also about industry and the energy sector.

In practice, the emissions generated by this market as a whole can be shockingly high. This consists of transporting oil from Africa to Europe, producing electricity in environmentally unfriendly coal-fired power stations, manufacturing vehicle parts and even maintaining the infrastructure associated with the transmission of natural gas. Today's society is more mobile than ever before, but it is worth noting that all these processes are mutually reinforcing. The focus should, therefore, be on regulating the direction of development. Automotive-related CO2 emissions are huge but official statistics may not depict the full extent of the problem.

How much greenhouse gas is produced by cars?

The amount of CO2 produced by a particular car depends on many factors. However, it is important to look at the bigger picture – when considering the entire transport sector, passenger cars generate the most carbon dioxide. Road vehicle traffic accounts for 72% of total emissions, while passenger cars are responsible for as much as 60.7% of this figure (European Parliament data, 2016). Therefore, this represents 43.7% of the total value. This is considerably more than maritime transport (13.6% of the total) or air transport (13.4%).
Therefore, cars generate an enormous amount of CO2. In the coming decades, the statistics on emissions from passenger vehicles are not optimistic – currently, they are assumed to stay at a similar level or even to increase, instead of decreasing.

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How to reduce the carbon footprint?

Carbon emissions from cars and lorries are a huge contributor to total CO2 emissions. Therefore, it is definitely worth following the European Commission's guidelines. "A European strategy for low-emission mobility" is a set of guidelines aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. These include increasing the efficiency of the transport system.

In Europe, travel style is still a problem, with most drivers travelling alone. The use of technology may change attitudes towards public transport somewhat, but this will not lead to a complete elimination of CO2 emissions. The implementation of alternative energy sources is, therefore, an extremely important issue.

It is worth noting that if the energy demand associated with EV development exceeds our production capacity in terms of green energy, we will not be able to reduce our carbon footprint to any significant extent. The European Commission is also prepared for such a scenario – in the meantime, while modern EV-related infrastructure is being developed, alternatives to transport electrification are also being emphasized.

Improving internal combustion engines and focusing on energy from hydrogen, biofuels and other alternative sources offers an opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions. This research is intended to allow a faster transition to electric vehicles, but it assumes a certain balance – a properly planned development. However, a lot depends on vehicle suppliers – their investments in electrification and improving the ecology of production. CO2 reduction in this area is important for many reasons. Therefore, it is worth betting on solutions that combine innovation and sustainability, and also offer hope for accelerating EV deployment.

See also: 100% recyclable and up to 62% lighter EPP returnable transport packaging 

Knauf Automotive Solutions for reducing CO2 emissions

Rapid action is needed to electrify mobility. For this to be possible, a balanced development based on modern and innovative technologies is required. The EPP (expanded polypropylene) automotive components developed by Knauf Automotive for the EV and PHEV sectors provide excellent shock absorption as well as electrical and thermal insulation. In addition, they offer a lightweight alternative to conventional materials. 
Foamed plastics can contribute greatly to the health of EVs in this age of electromobility.

The use of these materials promotes increased passenger safety and also increases durability and the resistance to external factors of key components such as batteries. Expanded polypropylene is entirely recyclable and represents an excellent ecological alternative to conventional raw materials. The process of obtaining parts from EPP does not require large energy input or access to raw materials. Processing does not involve high CO2 emissions, especially when combined with the Industry 4.0 solutions provided by Knauf Automotive. EPP provides an opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of the automotive sector and reduce the consumption of key raw materials.

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