Audi Brussels first to produce CO2 free shortly
Audi’s Brussels factory, being fully in transition from building the A1 to building the new all-electric e-tron by end of 2018 and a second model in 2019, will be producing this electric car in a CO2 neutral way. The first Audi factory to do this. But CEO Patrick Danau doesn’t want to set an exact date.
“If I do, you journalists will remember this and when we start one day later, it will be seen as a negative thing”, Danau says. “What we know is that we’re going to build a zero emission vehicle and that our factory will be CO2 neutral.”
It will be the next big thing in the debate about the electric car and Audi has understood this. While the vehicle itself is zero-emission, observers will draw up the CO2 balance sheet for the total life cycle, from well to wheel and the recycling afterwards.
37.000 m2 solar panels
For the production Audi Brussels already has 37.000 square metres of solar panels on its roofs, the biggest installation in the Brussels’ Region. Good for a decrease of 14.220 tons of CO2 per year.
On the other end of the cycle Audi promises to recycle the batteries. “It’s obvious that we’ll do the utmost effort to recycle the e-tron batteries after long years of service. On the other hand when a battery breaks down, only the defect parts will be replaced, not the entire battery”, Danau explains.
To get to this ‘clean production’ Audi Brussels has to do a colossal job in ‘rebuilding’ the factory and all its assembly lines while still producing the A1. “I’ve worked for 39 years in the VW group and I’ve never seen anything like it”, the CEO says.
Only walls and roofs are kept, all the rest is to be replaced. A new building was constructed for assembling the batteries. Audi Brussels will be the first car factory in the world that will be producing electric cars and its batteries at the same spot.
At night and weekends
Practically the changeover is done at night or during weekends and holidays where possible, but also during regular production. “More than 7.500 tons of steel were needed already. That’s more than the Eifel Tower. And we had to cast 20.000 cubic metres of concrete. All this to reinforce the building’s structures to support the weight of the new vehicles.”
The new e-tron will be 25% longer, 15% higher and 15% wider and weighs nearly 3 tons, which is 280% more than the A1. Where needed adjustable skids will carry the vehicles on the construction line or – like for working at the underside of the car – they will be suspended.
Both vehicles on same line
The same construction line is able to carry both the A1 and the e-tron, which asks for extreme flexibility. A number of pre-production e-trons are already built on this lines. In Brussels they always have built cars in steel only. This one will be aluminum and steel.
“We’re leaving the combustion engine for electric motors. The batteries will be at 400 Volts for these 4 wheel driven cars. We had to create new teams and train them, especially those who will deal with the electrical parts”, says the boss.
Far more complex
The e-tron is far more complex than the A1. The latter counts 34 electronic boxes, while the e-tron has 150 of them. “Each of this electronic boxes is more powerful than the ones used to put a man on the moon in 1969.”
There are more than 600 connections and you can’t miss one of them, as this car will have far more driving aids than the A1.” The joining of the fixation systems are new, as are the aluminum parts. For a A1 this is somewhat 4.000 pieces, while the Audi e-tron needs 7.000. So far the factory had to restart six times already after realizing new changes. And there are more to come.