VW is converting its entire Zwickau factory to electric vehicle production, and as it prepares for the start of ID3 production later this year, the German automaker teases the production of 330,000 all-electric cars per year.
Over the last few years, VW has been “all talk, no show” when it comes to electric vehicles, but it is about to change.
Volkswagen is the first major legacy automaker to convert an entire factory to electric vehicle production.
The Zwickau factory is currently producing several variants of the VW Golf, as well as bodies for the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus.
It produces over 250,000 vehicles per year and employs 8,000 people.
Now it’s going electric, and VW is also investing in making the production cleaner. VW wrote in a press release today:
Volkswagen is set to build the attractive, affordable e-car for everyone. An e-car for millions, not just for millionaires. To do so, the Volkswagen plant in Zwickau is currently being transformed into the first, largest, highest-performing — and most environmentally friendly — e-factory in Europe.
The company says that ID.3 production will start by the end of the year, and going into 2021, they will be able to produce 330,000 all-electric cars annually at the plant:
Already by the end of 2019, the first fully electric ID. models will be rolling off the production line at the Volkswagen plant in Zwickau, starting with the ID.3. In the final stage, from 2021 onwards, 330,000 all-electric cars will be built per year. The employees here will then be manufacturing six models for three brands: Volkswagen, Audi and Seat. The Group is investing a total of €1.2 billion in the ultra-modern site in Saxony.
The first production lines are going to come online after the summer shutdown next month.
The conversion was started in the summer of 2018 with the modernization of the production lines. Following the plant’s summer shutdown, the first of two assembly lines for ID. production will be given the green light in August. To this end, the body shop, paint shop, assembly, and infrastructure have been extensively modernized and renewed. Among other things, the entire conveyor technology had to be modified for electric cars.
The other production line will be converted to electric by the end of next year.
Beyond producing zero-emission vehicles, VW also wants to the production process to be zero-emission. The automaker aims for the modernized factory be “CO2-neutral.”
Volkswagen listed a series of projects to achieve this goal:
Green electricity: The Zwickau plant is supplied with electricity by Volkswagen Kraftwerks GmbH. For a few years now, this company has been offering pure green electricity sourced from hydroelectric power plants, wind farms, and solar parks. This green electricity is TÜV-certified. Even though it costs a little more, Volkswagen Sachsen (with the Zwickau, Dresden, and Chemnitz sites) has been using this green electricity since April 2017. “It is completely CO2-neutral and supports our goal of becoming a ‘Think Blue Factory,’” Keller explains. The figures are impressive: By using green electricity, the Zwickau site alone saves 106 tons of CO2 a year. This currently covers 50% of the electricity requirement. The other 50% is produced at Zwickau in the in-house combined heat and power plant. This is run on natural gas, which is significantly more climate-friendly than producing electricity with coal. The in-house power plant has another big advantage: It “incidentally” also covers 70% of the heating requirement for the Zwickau plant. “If we only used the gas for heating, we would not have this efficiency and we would have much higher CO2 emissions,” says Ingolf Keller.
The halls that are being extended or newly built during the conversion are completely in line with the latest German energy-saving ordinance (insulation, windows, construction cover). They minimize electricity, water, and heat consumption depending on use. In addition, employees meet once a month to discuss how they can further reduce consumption. For example, the water cycle has been adjusted so that more water is recycled, meaning less fresh water is consumed. Another example concerns the hydraulic units, which are now shut down centrally over the weekend. This has been a success: The electricity consumption is now only 20% of that of a workday — a very good value for the entire group.
Natural gas is known to be one of the major consumers in the production process. During thermal post-combustion in the paint shop, the exhaust gas temperature is now optimized so that on the one hand it is still high enough for good quality, but on the other hand not too many pollutants are blown into the air, meaning less gas is consumed overall.
New systems are now always equipped with what are known as frequency-regulated fans and pumps. While these are more expensive to purchase in comparison with the earlier three-phase motors, they regulate precisely according to need, which means that they only use the minimum amount of energy required.
And finally, the numerous air compressors: They, too, have recently been energy optimized and thus significantly reduce CO2emissions.