Volvo aims to save energy in its truck production plants

A 29% reduction in specific energy consumption, and recovery of the capital cost within two years. This is one of the environmental targets of the Volvo Trucks organization.

Volvo Trucks operates production units in many countries and in most parts of the world. In 2003, the company decided to cut specific energy consumption within Global Manufacturing by an average of 29% per plant by 2006, with 2001 as baseline. Since operating conditions differ from plant to plant, the individual targets vary.

Volvo Trucks operates an assembly plant in Ghent, Belgium, which is also the site of the Volvo Group's central parts warehouse. Both units are part of the national voluntary energy conservation program. The aim is to achieve "world class" in energy consumption within three years under Belgian energy authority guidelines, which are based on its commitments under the Kyoto protocol.

In 2002, the gap between energy consumption and world class was 11.8%. This figure will be reduced to 3.4% in 2005 and eliminated in 2006. Specific energy consumption in Ghent is expected to be reduced by 36% between 2001 and 2006.

Investment in 2005 will be an estimated SEK1 million, yielding a reduction of 3,300 MWh in energy consumption. Measures planned include installation of energy-efficient lighting with lower environmental impact and more efficient reflectors, improved control of hot water systems, ventilation systems and air flows in spray booths, improved temperature control, and more efficient hydraulic power tools.

The replacement of light sources alone has halved electricity consumption for lighting, and the investment payback time is expected to be as short as two years. This program has also benefited from a tax rebate of 25% of the investment cost.

Another example is provided by the truck plant at New River Valley in Virginia, where a seven-year energy conservation program is under way in collaboration with Siemens. The first step was to replace all light sources with low-energy types. Plant lighting is controlled automatically and is operated as needed. In some sections of the plant operating on a two-shift basis, lighting levels can be reduced at certain times, whereas this is more difficult in three-shift areas. Lighting in the warehouse areas has been equipped with detectors to monitor movement. If no movement is detected for a period of time, lighting power is reduced about 35%.

A program to reduce energy consumption has also been undertaken at the Volvo Trucks cab plant in Umeå, where a total investment of about SEK25 million, including SEK8 million in the form of a government grant, has been committed to three subprojects. These involve the replacement of river water by ground water for cooling requirements in summer, developed heat recovery in the paint shop process, and the reduction of electrical losses in operating machinery and other equipment. The grant for this climate investment program is conditional on a maximum payback time of six years.

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