Volkswagen Group distributes its automotive products to various countries around the world using several hundred commercial vessels and 11 chartered ship carriers. In all, it ships more than 2.8 million vehicles on more than 7,700 ocean voyages each year. Many cargo ships operate on heavy bunker oil, resulting in vast plumes of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that follow in their wake.
Now Volkswagen says it is putting two new ultramodern vehicle carriers into service this year. The first of them, named SIEM Confucius, will leave the port of Emden soon with a cargo of 4,800 vehicles and head for Vera Cruz, Mexico. The Confucius and its sister ship, the Aristotle, burn liquified natural gas, which results in 25% lower carbon emissions, 30% less nitrogen oxide emissions, 60% fewer fine particulates, and no sulfur oxides.
“We are proud to put the world’s first LNG vehicle transporter of this size into service. This is an important part of our decarbonization strategy,” says Thomas Zernechel, head of logistics for Volkswagen Group. By 2025, the company aims to reduce its total net CO2 emissions by 30% and to be fully carbon neutral by 2050. Both ships are 200 meters long and 38 meters wide, with 13 car decks that can handle up to 4,800 cars and light commercial vehicles.
The ships are powered by 12,600 kW dual-fuel marine engines with direct injection and exhaust gas after treatment supplied by MAN Energy Solutions. MAN is part of the Volkswagen Group.They have a cruising speed of 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h). Each has two LNG fuel tanks that hold 1,800 cubic meters of refrigerated liquid natural gas — enough to complete one round trip journey across the Atlantic. In addition to LNG, the ships can also operate on biogas or E-gas from renewable sources.
Volkswagen Raises Its Stake In QuantumScape
Volkswagen began a collaboration with secretive US battery startup QuantumScape in 2012. While it moves ahead with plans to obtain batteries for its electric cars from known suppliers like LG Chem and CATL, VW is still pursuing the dream of solid state batteries that will be safer, more energy dense, and faster to charge than traditional lithium ion batteries.
The two companies formed a joint venture in 2018 to enable industrial level production of solid state batteries. A pilot production plant is planned for later this year. To make that happen, Volkswagen is adding another $200 million to its stake in QuantumScape.
“We are making technological progress with our partner QuantumScape. The additional investment will effectively strengthen and accelerate our joint development work,” says Thomas Schmall, chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen Group Components.
“Volkswagen is taking e-mobility to the mainstream. A strong position in the field of batteries is a decisive factor in this regard,” says Frank Blome, head of the battery cell business for Volkswagen Group Components. “We are securing our global supply base with efficient producers, gradually building up manufacturing capacities and driving the development of cutting edge solid state battery technology. Our focus in this context is on long-term strategic partnerships.”
The company expects to use solid state batteries in its next generation electric vehicles when they come to market in about 3 to 5 years.