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Volvo Cars switches to marine biofuel for ocean freight

Photo: Volvo Cars

Every year, tens of thousands of containers of production material destined for Volvo Cars factories are carried across the world’s oceans on container ships. From now on, most of these seafaring journeys are made with renewable fuel instead of traditional fossil fuel.

As the first global car maker to announce such a switch, Volvo Cars said this will achieve an immediate reduction in fossil-CO2 emissions from intercontinental ocean freight by 55,000 metric tons over a year.

Thanks to the renewable fuel, CO2 emissions are reduced by at least 84 percent compared to fossil fuel. The reduction is equivalent to the CO2 emissions of a full truck driving around the equator about 1,200 times.

The fuel used is fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), known more widely as biodiesel, and is based on renewable and sustainable sources—mainly waste cooking oil. No feedstock related to palm oil or palm-oil production is used.

Volvo Cars announced July 4 it will use renewable fuel for inbound ocean-container transports of production material destined for manufacturing plants based in Europe and the Americas, as well as all spare-parts distribution made globally by ocean-container transports.

“Renewable fuel is not the end game for removing CO2 from the world’s ocean-freight needs,” said Javier Varela, chief operating officer and deputy CEO with Volvo Cars. “Yet this initiative shows that we can act now and implement solutions that achieve significant results during the wait for long-term technological alternatives.”

Varela added, “We don’t view this initiative as a competitive advantage. On the contrary, we want to spark other car makers into action as well, to increase demand for carbon-efficient ocean transports and to establish renewable fuels as a mid-term solution that works. We all have a responsibility to act.”

Volvo Cars has been working on this initiative together with its logistics partners Maersk, Kuehne+Nagel and DB Schenker.

Since June 1, these logistics-service providers have switched to renewable fuel for equivalent energy needed for all container transports done for Volvo Cars.

When renewable fuel is not available on a specific shipment, Volvo Cars’ renewable fuel allocation is instead used by the logistics partner for another customer’s route elsewhere, so the overall cut in fossil fuel use is kept on par with actual use in container vessels.

The methodology, called mass-balancing, is third-party audited regularly.

The renewable fuel itself is certified and not produced in competition with food crops. It is therefore sustainable in accordance with the EU Renewable Energy Directive.

“We’re continually exploring sustainability opportunities across all aspects of our supply chain, and across our overall business,” Varela said. “Our list of initiatives keeps growing as we work towards our ambition of becoming a climate-neutral company by 2040.”

Volvo Cars’ ambition is to reduce its lifecycle-carbon footprint per car by 40 percent between 2018 and 2025, which requires a 25 percent reduction in operational emissions, including logistics.

Volvo Cars is also aiming for climate-neutral manufacturing by 2025.

Both these milestones are important steps toward its climate-neutral ambitions.

1 comment

1 Comment

Forest Gamp
Forest Gamp
Sep 06, 2023

Volvo Cars' transition to marine biofuel for ocean freight is a commendable step towards sustainability. As we applaud their commitment to reducing carbon emissions, it's worth noting that similar dedication to eco-friendly practices can extend to the automotive industry. Companies like Coilover Parts, specializing in auto parts, can contribute by offering environmentally conscious products and promoting responsible manufacturing processes. This holistic approach ensures that not only our vehicles but also the supply chain supporting them align with our global sustainability goals, ultimately reducing our carbon footprint on land and sea.

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