At the Volvo Group, we are committed to sustainability. It is our ambition to be part of the solution to improving how our products and operations impact the environment. We follow the triple bottom line—People, Planet, Profit—framework to ensure we “walk the talk” when it comes to our core value of “environmental care.” Practically, this means that we focus our efforts strategically in three key areas:
Production: Energy-Efficient, Renewable, Landfill-Free
Three of our largest operations, which make up greater than 85 percent of the energy footprint among our facilities in the U.S., are certified (Platinum) ISO 50001 Energy Management System/Superior Energy Performance. Through these programs and our participation in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings, Better Plants initiative, we’ve reduced energy consumption at our factories by 25 percent, five years ahead of our original target. We’re now more than halfway to achieving our new goal of 25 percent more in energy savings by 2024.
And while actions like these at the site and corporate level have a large impact, many new energy-saving ideas actually come from our employees. The Volvo Group partners with the DOE to conduct energy “treasure hunts,” in which employee teams observe their facilities during idle or partially idle periods (e.g., weekends, evenings) to identify energy waste. Events in 2017 at Volvo Group truck manufacturing plants in Virginia and Pennsylvania identified approximately $700,000 in low-cost or no-cost energy-efficiency opportunities. An additional treasure hunt at our bus service center in New Jersey uncovered $12,000 in potential savings opportunities, which was equivalent to 34 percent of the utility expenditures.
Renewable energy is also playing a part in our commitment to environmental sustainability. For example, the Volvo Group partnered with ConEdison Solutions and Entropy Solar Integrators to design and install a parking lot solar canopy—among the largest on the U.S. East Coast—at our Hagerstown, Maryland, powertrain manufacturing facility. Covering the plant’s entire north parking lot, the 5,000-panel solar canopy produces 1.3 megawatts of electricity, which is delivered to the facility to help offset the plant’s electrical demand. Because solar panels emit zero emissions, energy produced by the solar canopy is equivalent to eliminating the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 236 average passenger vehicles.
We created the Volvo Energy Network of North America (VENNA), a network of individuals who drive energy-efficiency and the transition toward renewable energy use and carbon neutrality throughout our North American operations. Through VENNA, we implemented a “learning by doing” model, which allows us to share best practices with plants within the Volvo Group in North America.
Partnerships: Taking a Leading Role
The Volvo Group stays connected to the global conversation about environmental sustainability through participation in a number of voluntary governmental and nongovernmental programs. In addition to DOE programs, we also take part in the World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers program and the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Program. Mack Trucks, part of the Volvo Group, recently teamed up with The Nature Conservancy to bring awareness for land and water conservation to employees.
Products: Driving Prosperity Through Transportation
The Volvo Group has a mission of driving prosperity through transport solutions, and environmental sustainability is a key part of that. We participate in a number of programs and partnerships that enable us to develop and test sustainable solutions.
Most recently, the California Air Resources Board announced a grant award of more than $44 million to the South Coast Air Quality Management District and Volvo to develop all-electric truck demonstrators in California with commercialization planned in 2020. The Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project includes 16 partners and is a truly transformative freight facility project that will realize commercialization and market penetration of heavy-duty battery electric vehicles in California and throughout North America. In addition to all electric trucks, the project will integrate non-truck battery-electric equipment, nonproprietary chargers and solar energy production equipment to facilitate zero emissions freight movement.
Through our participation in the DOE SuperTruck program, we have also developed technologies to improve the energy efficiency of our vehicles that are currently on the market. We’re participating in SuperTruck II, developing next-generation technologies to increase the efficiency of our vehicles.
We offer alternative fuel options for many of our vehicles, and several Volvo and Mack models have recently been approved for the California Air Resources Board Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project.
By Dawn Fenton, Volvo’s Director of Sustainability and Government Affairs and Rick Robinson,Volvo’s Director, Health Safety & Environment