"Audi is stirring great expectations when it comes to sustainability. Here, too, the keyword is: premium!"CR expert
"Customers need technical solutions, not models that force them to make sacrifices."Audi employee

Technical and ecological expectations
are becoming more demanding

Intro to Product section

The demands on carmakers are also on the increase. Corporate responsibility therefore must be evident primarily in the core business – in other words, in the development of vehicles for pioneering mobility.

What does corporate responsibility mean for a premium carmaker? What are the expectations of our employees and customers, and what does "society" expect from us? We firmly believe that responsible action must be primarily evidenced in the products whose attractiveness is the reason for our success. Reducing emissions and enhancing efficiency have long been top priorities of our development efforts.

Conflicting development goals

Sometimes, however, these requirements are contradictory. Increased crash safety is normally associated with the use of more material, such as to protect passengers as well as possible in the event of a side-impact collision. Greater weight, on the other hand, is associated with higher fuel consumption. A heavier body and larger engines require more powerful brakes, which once again increases total weight.

Audi Space Frame technology saves up to 40 percent in body weight.

Generally speaking, weights in the auto industry have increased over multiple vehicle generations as requirements placed on safety and comfort have increased. It took intelligent lightweight construction to reverse the weight spiral, such as with the 1994 Audi A8, the first model with an Audi Space Frame body. The lightweight metal, which is notoriously difficult to process, has since made its way into numerous models.

Combustion engines are the dominant drive technology today, and will remain so in the short term. Even after more than 100 years of experience with the technology, there is still potential for further optimization. We have therefore bundled a whole range of technologies for increasing efficiency and continuously reducing emissions in the modular efficiency platform (cf. Technologies for increasing efficiency).

Corporate responsibility must take place within the core business: in products and processes.

On the way to CO2-neutral mobility

Even though gasoline and diesel-powered engines dominate sales today, we find ourselves in a period of transition in which alternative drives are playing an increasingly large role. At the time of publication of this report, we offer hybrid models in three model lines, and we will be expanding our electric mobility portfolio to all large model series (cf. Alternative drives).

The 2013 Geneva Motor Show saw the introduction of both the A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid vehicle with an electric range of 50 kilometers, and the A3 g-tron, a model designed for operation on methane gas. We consider the automobile as a complete system in the life cycle assessments we prepare for our vehicles and have recognized the major influence that fuel has on the environmental footprint (cf. Holistic analysis).

A3 g-tron
The g-tron consumes on average less than 3.5 kilograms of natural gas per 100 km. CO2 tailpipe emissions are less than 95 g/km in gas mode. The greenhouse gas balance is further improved when e-gas – the fuel produced from green electricity – is used: In a well-to-wheel analysis that accounts for all factors from the fuel source to the wheel, CO2 emissions remain below 30 g/km. Developing 81 kW (110 hp) and 200 Nm of torque, the Audi A3 g-tron has a top speed of 190 km/h, with 0 to 100 km/h taking 11 seconds.

A3 e-tron
The Audi A3 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid with 150 kW (204 hp) of system power and 350 Nm of system torque. It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds on its way to a top speed of 222 km/h. According to the ECE (Economic Commission for Europe) standard for plug-in hybrid automobiles, the five-door model consumes on average just 1.5 liters of fuel per 100 km, which corresponds to CO2 emissions of 35 grams per km. In electric mode, the Audi A3 e-tron reaches 130 km/h and has a maximum range of 50 km.

The CO2 emissions of the A3 g-tron decrease dramatically when rather than natural methane (natural gas), it is powered instead with methane produced from renewables, which Audi calls e-gas. We produce this synthetic methane at a pilot plant in Emsland, not far from the North Sea coast. The methanation facility is powered primarily with surplus energy from wind turbines (cf. Renewable fuels).

Steadily improving safety

We have been working for many years to improve the passive and active safety of our vehicles. Lessons learned from Audi's interdisciplinary accident research flow into development, and the very good scores in the relevant crash tests testify to the success of this work. Besides body design, active safety systems are playing an increasingly important role. Taking several assistance systems as examples, we show how the interplay between complexly networked sensors and "traditional" vehicle technology can be used to prevent accidents or at least reduce the severity of their consequences (cf. Vehicle safety).

The stakeholders' perspective

In 2012, we asked our stakeholders to assess the relevance of primary aspects of product responsibility. In general, product-related topics are afforded the highest relevance by all stakeholders, compared with other areas such as employees or society. Fuel consumption and emissions, innovation and efficiency enhancement and alternative drives are very important here. One innovative step for us is the e-gas project for the development of alternative fuels.

Holistic analysis

An eye on the entire life cycle

At first glance, it all seems so easy. You put fuel in a car, drive it and generate exhaust gases that are discharged via the exhaust system. That is the part of automotive mobility that most people are aware of. At Audi, however, we focus on the entire automobile process chain.

There is always an environmental impact associated with mobility. Consumers and lawmakers frequently focus only on those emissions measured at a car's tailpipe. But that doesn't go far enough. Audi looks at the entire chain of processes and products that constitute mobility. We want to set positive examples for the responsible use of finite resources. Our aim is to reduce the environmental impact of each model compared with its predecessor (cf. Environmental management).

The life cycle assessment (LCA) of a vehicle provides important information about such things as how much CO2 baggage a model is carrying as a result of its production. We don't consider just the individual components of the vehicle, but the entire system from production to use to recycling. With the very first concept definitions in the product creation phase, irreversible decisions are made that have a major influence on the choice of materials, production and entire supply chain. We conduct our LCAs according to the international standard series ISO 14040 ff. We will prepare LCAs for all new model series and publish them at the respective market launch.

The LCA of the current Audi A3 1.4 TFSI shows that optimized production processes, more efficient drive technologies, improved energy management and the reduction of weight have resulted in a nine percent reduction in the greenhouse gas potential (CO2 and other greenhouse gases) compared with the previous model. Other aspects considered in the LCA are the effects on eutrophication of water bodies, summer smog formation, acidification potential and ozone depletion potential.

The life cycle assessment for the A3 therefore illustrates additional environmental aspects that are not in the focus of the public debate to the same degree as greenhouse gases.

Audi engineers try to take measures in all phases of the life cycle to reduce the environmental impact. Examples include improved process chains, the development of renewable fuels and the design of improved recycling methods (cf. Renewable fuels).

Design for Environment − 95 percent recyclability ensured at the end of the vehicle's service life

The responsible use of resources is also reflected in the recyclability of the vehicle itself and in the actual use of secondary raw materials and materials during the production of specific components. At issue here are materials that are recovered post-use via recycling and used again as starting material for a new product.

We can verify the recyclability of 95 percent of the vehicle weight. Almost all of the metallic materials, in particular, can be reused. Recycled polymers are also used for parts such as bumper covers, wheel housing shells and luggage compartment trays. The key here is that the recycled polymers satisfy the same quality criteria as virgin material (cf. Material management).

Technologies for increasing efficiency

Increasing efficiency and conflicting goals

Resource efficiency is a topic we are pursuing at many levels of our Company. This is most evident, however, in our automobiles, which poses the challenge of satisfying contradictory requirements. How can a car be made safer, lighter, more comfortable and even more fuel efficient, all at the same time?

Sporty, progressive, sophisticated – these are the traits shared by all Audi automobiles. "Progressive" covers that area in which the innovations that make our products more attractive to our customers, more comfortable and more efficient are developed. The major challenge facing our engineers is reconciling growing demands for comfort and safety with energy efficiency requirements.

The environmental awareness of many consumers is increasing, as are the requirements that our vehicles must satisfy under national laws. For this reason, one of our central development goals is to bring to market high-quality automobiles that are as fuel-efficient as possible, thereby lowering emissions for individual mobility.

This much is certain: Right now, there is no ideal solution for the drives of the future, which is why we are working on various forms of alternative drives (cf. Alternative drives) and to continuously improve the efficiency of vehicles with combustion engines.

According to a study by the Center of Automotive Management from October 2012, Audi was the premium manufacturer with the best CO2 balance for its vehicles. The study looked at the fleet consumption of premium vehicles sold in Germany in the first six months of 2012 (Center of Automotive Management, "Innovationen in der Antriebstechnologie," [Innovations in Drive Technology] October 12, 2012, p. 16).

At the end of 2012, a total of 104 models had CO2 emissions of 140 g/km or less; 36 drive variants with CO2 emissions of 120 g/km or less were available. Four variants in the A1 and A3 model lines achieved a value of 99 g CO2/km. Based on preliminary calculations, CO2 emissions for all of the Audi brand new cars sold in the European Union in 2012 averaged roughly 138 g CO2/km.

Number of Audi models (year-end position)

≤ 140 g CO2/km

≤ 120 g CO2/km

≤ 100 g CO2/km


Modular efficiency platform

With its TDI and TFSI engines, Audi has achieved key milestones for increasing the efficiency of combustion engines. Smaller, more efficient, yet more powerful engines with high torque are the development goal that we call "rightsizing." High torque allows for longer gear ratios and therefore lower engine speeds without compromising the dynamic abilities of our models. We have grouped together the individual technologies for the even better use of fuel in the modular efficiency platform, which includes areas of technology that go beyond the drive unit and further improve the efficiency of the entire vehicle.

The elements of the modular efficiency platform are implemented step-by-step in new Audi vehicles at model changeovers or as part of product improvements. Today nearly all Audi models are equipped as standard with a start-stop system. When the Q5 was updated in 2012, efficiency measures reduced the consumption of the TDI and TFSI engines by up to 15 percent. On the current A3 Sportback, these technologies have helped cut consumption by nine percent on average compared with the predecessor model.

The human factor

There is another key factor besides powertrain technology that influences fuel efficiency: The person behind the wheel bears roughly 30 percent of the responsibility for fuel efficiency. We use shift indicators or the efficiency program in the driver information system to inform drivers of possibilities for saving fuel. The Audi navigation systems already include routing optimized for fuel efficiency. In the future, Audi will offer an assistance system that combines navigation information with powertrain management and the driver information system. The "predictive efficiency assistant" supports proactive driving. For instance, it recognizes when the crest of a hill is approaching and informs the driver that the car can now be allowed to coast without using the engine.

Lightweight technology reverses the weight spiral

More stringent safety requirements and greater expectations of comfort in the automotive industry have contributed to a significant increase in vehicle weight in recent years. 100 kilograms less weight can reduce fuel consumption by roughly 0.3 liters per 100 kilometers. Lightweight construction and the reversal of the weight spiral it makes possible are therefore key prerequisites for improving the efficiency of the overall "vehicle" system. Audi has bracketed all lightweight construction technologies under the Audi ultra name. At the same time, the Company has defined the aspiration that each new Audi model be lighter than its predecessor.

The weight of the current Audi A3 generation was reduced by as much as 90 kilograms compared with the predecessor. The engine hood, front fenders and other parts of the front end are made of aluminum to save weight, but also to optimize weight distribution. The Audi A6 has undergone a comparable weight reduction. High- and ultra high-strength steels also play a major role in lightweight construction. These components can be made with thinner walls and consequently lighter while offering the same or greater strength. The most important principle of lightweight construction is "the right quantity of the right material in the right place." An intelligent material mix, such as of steels of various strengths and optimized lightweight alloys, enables better functional properties and lower weight to be achieved in body manufacturing.

A holistic perspective is also important when it comes to technology for lightweight construction. For example, carbon is only used where it makes sense from an efficiency standpoint. The reason is that carbon comes with a lot of CO2 baggage from the production process, and this must first be offset by weight and thus consumption reductions before it can have a positive effect on the overall environmental footprint.

CO2/km is the average emission figure for new Audi cars sold in the EU in 2012.
is how much weight was saved on the current Audi A3 compared with its predecessor.

Alternative drives

Many types of drives, one goal: individual mobility

A good 110 years ago, the combustion engine established itself as the seemingly only sensible drive system for automobiles. The supply of fossil fuels appeared to be endless. Today we know more about the global interrelationships and are therefore developing alternative drives that will enable responsible and attractive mobility on into the future.

In a sector whose products normally have a development period of four or five years, plus a product service life of at least ten years, you have to anticipate or prepare for future developments. Gasoline and diesel continue to be important fuels in our development departments. However, electricity or methane (preferably produced using renewables) have since become equally important as fuels for the automotive drives of the future. Our aspiration is to offer the widest range of hybrid models in the premium segment, and beyond that to develop additional possibilities for other more environmentally compatible drive forms on the way to CO2-neutral mobility.

Hybrid vehicles were already on the development agenda at Audi when this combination of combustion engine and electric motor was still regarded as exotic. The prototype Audi 100 Avant duo from 1989 had nickel-cadmium batteries on board that delivered 9.3 kW to an electric motor. In 1996, the Company presented an A4 Avant duo with a 21 kW electric motor, and a small production run of this model was also produced.

Competence center for lithium-ion storage technology

The rechargeable battery proved to be the Achilles heel of early hybrid models. We therefore established the high-voltage battery project house for the current generation of electrified Audi models. Since May 2012, the project house has been responsible for all questions related to modern lithium-ion storage technology – from basic questions regarding storage and charging to quality assurance to prototype production and small-scale production. The aim of the project house is to consolidate all of the Company's units and external partners involved in the storage of electrical energy in automobiles at one location and further expand expertise in this field.

e-tron hybrid models that can be charged from a socket

Audi already offers hybrid models in the Q5, A6 and A8 model lines. The next step is plug-in hybrids – vehicles with an even larger operating range on electricity only and that can be charged from a socket. Audi groups these vehicles together under the "e-tron" name. Two cars featuring this technology were unveiled in 2012: the A6 L e-tron concept in Beijing in the spring and the Audi crosslane coupé concept car in Paris in the fall.

The Audi A3 e-tron will be the first production e-tron model. According to the ECE (Economic Commission for Europe) standard for plug-in hybrid automobiles, the five-door model consumes on average just 1.5 liters of fuel per 100 km, which corresponds to CO2 emissions of 35 g/km. In electric mode, the Audi A3 e-tron reaches a top speed of 130 km/h and has a maximum range of 50 km. The specific challenge for our market is not just to offer more fuel-efficient vehicles with alternative drive concepts, but also to ensure that they are fun to drive and suitable for everyday use, which goes without saying for Audi. The A3 e-tron fulfills both of these requirements with a system output (electric motor and combustion engine combined) of 150 kW and 350 Nm of torque.

Multiple modes from which to choose

The battery of the plug-in hybrid can be charged by cable.

This plug-in hybrid can be driven with just the combustion engine, just the electric drive or in hybrid mode. The driver can choose to have both powerplants active at the same time. When the driver lets up on the accelerator, the powerplants are temporarily deactivated to prevent engine braking. This increases efficiency dramatically, particularly when driving proactively. We want to offer one electrified vehicle in each large model series by 2020.

We try to view the subject of electric mobility holistically, not just in terms of energy balances, but the day-to-day dealings with electric-powered vehicles. The infrastructure for liquid fuels has been in place for many years now. For vehicles that "fill up" with electricity, however, a new infrastructure still needs to be established. Contactless battery charging by means of induction, which works very well on a small scale in electric toothbrushes, for example, cannot be easily implemented for cars in public spaces. Our engineers are therefore working on stationary charging pads that can be installed in parking spaces, for example, and mobile charging pads on the underside of the vehicle to transfer the energy.

Electric mobility: Not all electricity is the same

Audi and other manufacturers received the "eCarTec Award – the Bavarian State Prize for Electric Mobility" in 2012 for a universal, cable-bound charging system. The award-winning, brand-independent charging interface has the potential to promote the worldwide introduction of electrified automobiles (cf. eCarTec).

The life cycle assessment of cars that draw their energy from the public power grid must also consider how this electricity was generated. For this reason, electric mobility refers only to zero local emissions for the time being. The utility company's electricity mix determines how environmentally compatible this form of mobility is. The life cycle assessments of our models also clearly illustrate the importance of the original energy source (cf. Holistic analysis).

The upstream fuel chain is key

Another example for the holistic view of the environmental impact of an Audi model with an alternative drive are the values derived for the A3 g-tron, the first Audi fueled with methane (natural gas). If the Audi A3 g-tron is operated on Audi e-gas, which is produced using renewables, its environmental footprint improves dramatically. A vehicle powered with e-gas emits at least 75 percent less greenhouse gas than a conventional natural gas drive system (cf. Renewable fuels).

was the year Audi developed the first hybrid vehicle.
is the maximum range of the Audi A3 e-tron in electric mode.

Renewable fuels

Renewable fuels for a better environmental footprint

Most people are well aware that driving a car generates emissions. What can be done to reduce emissions significantly? Our LCAs provide a clear answer – we are not only developing more efficient and alternative drives, but also alternative fuels.

When looking at the life cycle assessment of a modern automobile with a combustion engine for ways to improve the climate footprint, the greatest potential lies in the usage phase. Some 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions occur here.

The primary energies used consequently play a decisive role for the vehicle's overall environmental footprint. We are therefore focusing on the development of renewable energy forms that can make a contribution to CO2-neutrality in the overall mobility system, from the well to the use of the fuel in the vehicle.

One important step is the e-gas plant which is currently under construction in Emsland. This methanation plant which is scheduled to come on-stream in summer 2013, is the first functional plant of its kind anywhere in the world to effectively connect the electricity and natural gas networks. The plant uses surplus electricity from wind power to break water down into oxygen and hydrogen. In a subsequent catalytic process, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 from the exhaust flow of an adjacent biogas plant to produce synthetic methane, the Audi e-gas. It can be fed directly into the existing natural gas network and distributed via CNG (compressed natural gas) filling stations for the operation of natural gas-powered cars such as the A3 g-tron, which is scheduled to launch in late 2013.

Major German energy utilities have since taken up this cogeneration idea and initiated corresponding projects of their own. Surplus wind and solar power can be stored and transported in the gas network in the form of methane. Besides natural gas mobility, the energy can also be used in combined heat and power plants to generate electricity and heat at those times when the sun and wind do not deliver enough energy. With the e-gas project, Audi is both a part of and a driver of the energy revolution.

Audi A3 g-tron: 30 g CO2/km with e-gas

The values computed for the Audi A3 g-tron fueled with e-gas illustrate the effect the upstream fuel chain has on a vehicle's environmental impact. According to a comprehensive well-to-wheel analysis, the A3 g-tron emits less than 30 g CO2 equivalents per km during operation. In this instance, the term "well-to-wheel" means from wind energy to the use of the synthetic fuel for mobility. The emissions for the construction and operation of the wind turbines as well as the e-gas plant are already included in these 30 g CO2. Not a single gram of CO2 that would not have been bound previously during the production of the e-gas is generated when the vehicle is driven. There is therefore a closed CO2 cycle between the production of the fuel and its combustion.

New biofuels: e-ethanol and e-diesel

e-gas is just one example of the renewable fuels that we are developing in collaboration with highly specialized partners and refer to collectively as Audi e-fuels. We are now contributing to the development and production of third-generation biofuels, which require no biomass and therefore do not compete with food and feed production. Two more future energy sources are e-ethanol and e-diesel.

Cyanobacteria will produce renewable fuels in the future.

Audi e-ethanol has the same chemical properties as the bioethanol already established on the market, but which is produced from plant-based biomass. The e-ethanol can be mixed in any ratio with conventional gasoline, i.e. used in the E5 and E10 gasoline grades currently on the market, as well as in E85 fuel, which is fairly widespread in Scandinavia and North America and contains 85 percent ethanol. The e-ethanol is already being produced today in a demonstration plant in New Mexico co-financed by Audi and operated for test purposes by Joule Unlimited.

Special microorganisms produce the chemical energy sources required for the e-ethanol or e-diesel from saltwater or waste water, carbon dioxide and sunlight. The so-called oxygenic photosynthesis process has been modified so that the organisms convert the carbon dioxide directly into ethanol or long-chain alkanes. The latter are a key component of diesel fuel.

The synthetic e-diesel is characterized by its extraordinary purity. It burns cleaner than diesel made from petroleum because it is free of sulfur, nitrogen and aromatic hydrocarbons.

According to current projections, the yield of e-ethanol or e-diesel per unit surface area is many times better than that of today's biofuels made from canola, corn or sugar beets. Furthermore, areas that are considered too barren for food production, such as deserts, can be used for the production of these fuels.

CO2/km is emitted by the Audi A3 g-tron.

Vehicle safety

Three pillars of safety

One of the most fundamental demands on mobility is safety. This applies all the more as traffic density increases, particularly in urban centers. We therefore pay particular attention during the development of our vehicles on the interplay between passive and active safety systems.

Cars in traffic are part of a highly dynamic system with many unpredictable parameters. Our development efforts related to vehicle safety are therefore based on three pillars: optimization of the body and cabin for occupant and traffic partner protection; active systems that can avoid or mitigate accidents; and interdisciplinary accident research.

Engineers, doctors and psychologists research the causes of accidents

The assessment of the accident vehicle is one of the tasks of the Audi Accident Research Unit (AARU).

The Audi Accident Research Unit (AARU) is a collaboration with Regensburg University Hospital which was established 15 years ago. The aim is to develop knowledge through the structured analysis of accidents about their causes and the course of events during accidents, and to use this knowledge for the development of active and passive safety technologies in the vehicles. A team of engineers, psychologists and doctors investigate accidents involving at least one current Audi model and in which an airbag deployed or a person was injured. Besides analysis of the accident site and the vehicles, interviews are conducted with the people involved in the accident so that the course of events of the accident can be reconstructed from various perspectives.

The AARU is also involved in multiple university research projects on such topics as the reaction patterns of drivers in accident situations or the application of lessons learned from accidents at intersections to driver assistance systems and infrastructure.

Detailed analysis of over 700 road accidents revealed that the most frequent errors were so-called information errors. Here is an example from the analysis of accidents at intersections: Increased distraction while absorbing information combined with estimation errors regarding the distance or speed of other vehicles leads to an accident.

Networked assistance systems inform, warn, protect

These lessons learned flow directly into the technical development of driver assistance systems such as the safety package Audi pre sense, which is available in a variety of configurations (cf. Basic Information Audi MediaServices).

The new Audi A3 is also equipped with the secondary collision brake assistant. This system brakes the vehicle to prevent it from continuing to roll in an uncontrolled manner following an accident, thus mitigating the consequences of a potential secondary collision.

A new safety technology that analyzes steering movements and other parameters was introduced in 2012. If the vehicle is traveling at between 65 and 200 kilometers per hour and unusual steering movements are detected, a prominent rest recommendation appears on the display.

The driver assistance systems from Audi follow a strict action hierarchy: first inform, then warn, support and finally protect. The developers are working on new, even more highly networked systems that can help to avoid accidents at intersections, for instance, or use rear-facing radar to warn about approaching vehicles or cyclists when exiting the vehicle. The next generation of assistance systems will process data from more than two dozen control units or sensors to enhance both active safety and comfort.

The night vision assistant available so far in the A6, A7 and A8 models offers significantly better safety when driving in the dark. An infrared camera clearly highlights persons at distances between 15 and 90 meters. Where there is a risk of a collision with identified persons, they are shown on the central display. In addition, the marker lights in the main headlights flash three times to draw attention to the situation. This dramatically reduces the risk of nighttime accidents with cyclists riding without lights and pedestrians dressed in dark clothing.

The night vision assistant can detect people with the aid of an infrared camera and indicate them to the driver on the display.

Passive safety: Designing cars to protect people

One of the most important indicators for a car's active and passive safety is the test by the Euro NCAP consortium. In addition to the Audi A6, the Audi A3 was honored with the "Euro NCAP advanced" distinction in four categories in 2012 because the independent jury found that the assistance systems make an extraordinary contribution to personal protection (cf. Euro NCAP).

The design of our vehicles should delight customers. At the same time, however, it should also ensure protection of the occupants and pedestrians – frequently a task that presents the designers with conflicting goals. The new A3, which in 2012 achieved the best possible rating of five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test, shows how this conflict can be resolved. The acronym "NCAP" stands for "new car assessment program" and represents a test standard that assesses the safety of adults and children during front-, side- and rear-impact collisions. Besides the NCAP for Europe, there are comparable organizations for the United States (US NCAP) and Australia/Asia.

The Audi Q3, for instance, received the best possible five star rating in the Australasian NCAP in fall 2012. The test assesses a front- and side-impact collision, pedestrian protection and seat safety. The A4 and S4 models (both with quattro all-wheel drive) also received the maximum number of stars in the U.S. crash test. Furthermore, the active safety systems "lane departure warning" and "collision warning" also passed the US NCAP tests (cf. Australasia NCAP Audi Q3 and safercar.gov A4).

Audi and other manufacturers scored below average in a new form of crash test in the United States. We take this very seriously and are applying the lessons learned from this small overlap crash test to vehicle development.

Interview product life cycle

Reiner Mangold Head of Environment Product

the entire
life cycle

As Head of Environment Product, Reiner Mangold has to take a stand – on electric mobility and e-fuels, on lightweight construction and traction batteries. He explains the Audi Group’s strategic approach for the mobility of the future.

What does the mobility of the future look like, and what is Audi doing to prepare for this?

One thing is certain: The mobility of the future will be diverse. One of our major challenges as a carmaker is to offer each of our customers around the world a concept that is just right for them. At the same time, we want to and will present new technological possibilities that open up whole new dimensions when it comes to climate protection and resource conservation. We at Audi aspire to not simply follow market trends, but rather to actively shape the future with new technologies and intelligent concepts.

How do you plan on reaching these new dimensions with respect to sustainability?

We don’t just look at the emissions from a vehicle, but rather analyze the entire product life cycle, including the vehicle’s upstream energy chain. A comprehensive environmental footprint assessment enables us to analyze and influence early on which measures together really have a positive effect over the entire life cycle of a vehicle. That is why we are working in various projects on ways of making climate-friendly energy sources available to our customers. For the usage phase of an automobile continues to harbor the greatest potential for making truly decisive strides toward climate neutrality. Our Audi e-fuels clearly demonstrate that in addition to electric driving with green electricity, there are also less climate-damaging concepts for mobility over longer distances.

But it is still the driver who chooses a fuel or a specific electricity contract. Does that mean that the ball is in the driver’s court?

On the one hand, it really is. You can’t do anything without the customer. A car can be as efficient and environmentally friendly as can be, but if nobody buys it because it is too expensive or isn’t practical enough, there is zero environmental effect. The same is true for renewable fuels or green electricity. It is ultimately up to the customer. But we as carmakers together with the energy utilities first have a responsibility to develop and offer correspondingly attractive options.

Does Audi already offer such options?

We do with respect to efficiency in the form of very fuel-efficient vehicles and also the fuel-saver courses offered by our Audi driving experience. But we also want to set new standards in mobility where CO2 is reduced overall. We will soon have something very impressive to offer here. In combination with the CNG-powered Audi A3 g-tron, which is scheduled to launch in late 2013, the customer will also be able to order our Audi e-gas, a renewable natural gas. This will make it fundamentally possible to enjoy CO2-neutral driving in the spring thanks to surplus wind energy from the previous fall. The car itself requires relatively little energy to produce and also offers very good recyclability.

You talk about analyzing the entire life cycle. How do you use the lessons learned from these analyses in your products?

Take the new Audi A3, for example: Although it is bigger, safer and more spacious than its predecessor, it is up to 90 kg lighter. And more fuel-efficient, of course. Technical, economic but also ecological considerations play a role in the choice of materials. In the concept phase, we asked the question: Does the use of high-strength steels or aluminum really provide a benefit to the environment in the life cycle assessment of the A3? After all, both metals initially require the use of more energy than normal steel sheet. For the A3 1.4 TFSI with a combustion engine, the answer is positive. It has improved by nine percent compared with its predecessor with respect to its greenhouse gas balance over the entire life cycle. The situation is much more difficult when it comes to the ecological compensation for energy-intensive lightweight materials in electric vehicles. They are more efficient, recover a large proportion of their braking energy and generally are not driven as far over their lifetimes as cars with a combustion engine, which are better suited for driving long distances.

What do life cycle analyses for electric drives look like in general?

For the usage phase, the electric car is unbeatable when it comes to local emissions. Its environmental footprint with respect to CO2 is also outstanding if it can be proven that the car uses electricity generated with renewable energy. But if electric driving results in power plants having to burn more fossil fuels, the greenhouse gas balance is negative compared with vehicles with combustion engines. And with respect to production, a battery-electric vehicle today comes with significantly more ecological baggage than a vehicle with a combustion engine. This is due primarily to the raw materials for the traction battery and the electric drive. We are therefore working to minimize the amount of material used and are also working on recycling concepts for the aforementioned components. Our vision – and not just for electric drives: greenhouse gas-neutral mobility in a holistic, cradle-to-cradle perspective. In other words, the use of renewable energy sources and recycling of the materials used.