The BMW Group's worldwide production network makes a significant contribution to environmental protection. The focus is on resource conservation, the use of renewable energies and circularity.
The consistent conservation of resources and the preservation of an environment worth living in are at the core of the BMW Group. For many decades, the BMW Group has been thinking more consistently about sustainability than any other automobile manufacturer. This applies to all BMW Group vehicles. From the designing to the recycling stage at the end of their life, the careful use of resources is a high priority for every employee. These demanding and verifiable goals are particularly evident when looking at manufacturing at BMW Group’s worldwide plants. Among other things, the BMW Group plans to save another 80% CO2 in production per vehicle built by 2030 compared to 2019.
In an ongoing process, each individual location makes an important contribution to the BMW Group's goal of making BMW sustainable. They are doing this by taking local conditions and requirements of the production into account.
During the Sustainable Manufacturing Week, the BMW Group provides insights into its production network and shows how it sets standards in environmental protection. On the one hand, the focus is on major topics such as the reduction of CO2, the use of renewable energies and recycling management. But beyond that, each individual plant finds individual solutions for even more efficiency and environmental protection. For example, the BMW Group plant in India collects rainwater from the monsoon season, the german plant in Dingolfing uses hydroelectric power from nearby rivers to produce the new BMW iX, and the largest BMW Group plant in Spartanburg produces electricity from methane gas.
Dingolfing produces fully electric vehicles using 100% green electricity from hydroelectric power and recycles 99% of its waste.
The BMW Group plant in Dingolfing is the largest European location in the production network and sets standards in terms of ecological footprint. The production of the new BMW iX marks the beginning of another chapter in sustainability.
The new BMW iX once again demonstrates the outstanding expertise of the BMW Group plant in Dingolfing in terms of resource conservation. For all vehicles produced here, it has been able to reduce both energy and water consumption per vehicle by more than a fifth within the last few years. The plant has a dozen of its own wells, which it uses to cover over 40% of its water needs, thus conserving the region's drinking water reserves.
New supplier contracts with two local hydroelectric power plants on the Isar and Lech rivers ensure that the BMW iX is built with regionally produced and directly sourced green electricity. The recycling rate at the plant is an astonishing 99%. The BMW iX represents a recycling economy that has been perfected over many years.
Chennai collects six million litres of rainwater as a reserve for the dry season.
The careful use of water has been an essential part of environmental protection at the BMW Group for decades. Particularly in regions with water shortages, the company pays special attention to the careful use of this raw material. The BMW Group plant in Chennai (India) is located in a region severely affected by water shortages. During an extreme period of drought in 2019, no rain fell here for 200 days – the region was on the brink of disaster. During the subsequent short period of monsoon, on the other hand, there is more rain than the soil or local wells can store. The BMW Group plant in Chennai collected 6.473.000 litres of rainwater in specially built collection basins during the 2020 monsoon season. This already covered about 50% of its annual water needs. In order to further increase this share, additional water reservoirs for the retention of rainwater are under construction. At other plants the BMW Group uses water from its own wells, among other sources. Resultantly, it does not compete with drinking water and thus reduces its consumption.
Another example of the economical use of water is its application in cycles. The Indian plant in Chennai also recycles all of its water used in processes and reuses it several times. For a long time now, the BMW Group has also been optimising consumption-intensive processes in all its vehicle plants, such as in the paint shop, in order to reduce both the demand for fresh water and the volume of wastewater. Since 2006, the BMW Group has been able to reduce its water consumption by more than 30% worldwide. Overall, only an average of 2.25 cubic metres of water is used per manufactured vehicle.
Tiexi plant in Shenyang produces its own solar power across 143.000 square metres.
Using electricity from renewable energy sources in production is one of the most effective ways of avoiding CO2 and thus combating global warming. The Tiexi plant in the BMW Brilliance Automotive joint venture in Shenyang covers part of its electrical energy requirements for vehicle production with a 143.000 square metre rooftop photovoltaic system above the parking garage for employees. The size is equivalent to about 20 football fields and provides over 15 megawatts of solar power. It is currently the most powerful photovoltaic system in the BMW Group. Other plants such as Oxford (England), Chennai (India) and San Luis Potosí (Mexico) also have large areas with solar panels. In Mexico, the capacity of the company's own solar plant covers the electricity requirements of the entire vehicle assembly. In addition to solar power, the BMW Group uses other renewable energy sources to generate electricity – depending on the suitability of the location for generating green electricity. Leipzig, for example, uses wind energy, the plants in Dingolfing and Munich use hydroelectric power from nearby rivers to produce their all-electric vehicles, and Rosslyn in South Africa receives electricity from biogas produced with cattle manure from agriculture. In addition to its own manufacturing, the BMW Group obtains its electrical energy in worldwide manufacturing from renewable energy sources.
Rosslyn cares for society and helps with 2.7 million Euros against COVID-19.
For the BMW Group, sustainability does not only mean protecting the environment and conserving resources, but also social responsibility. For this reason, equal opportunities through education, help for local health facilities and comprehensive support for employees are just as much a part of the BMW Group's values. The BMW plant in Rosslyn, South Africa, was the BMW Group's first foreign plant when it was acquired in 1975. Since the 1990’s it has been committed to providing long-term support to the local population in the areas of science, health, environment and community development. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, the BMW Group – together with the German Ministry of Development – is also supporting the South African population with aid worth 2.7 million Euros. This includes structural and capacity enhancements (806 beds) across nine hospitals and four community health clinics. South Africa, and specifically the Gauteng region where the BMW Group's Rosslyn plant is located, was one of the areas severely affected by the pandemic.
At many BMW Group locations, initiatives to improve living conditions for the local population also come directly from employees. The BMW Group supports this voluntary commitment through awards and prize money. In each case, the sponsorship contributions benefit the initiative receiving the award. In 2020, South African production employee Solly Makgatho received an honorary award for the idea of founding the Gauteng Community Organization (GCO). The organization provides orphans with shelter, care and education.
Steyr recycles seven tonnes of the hard metal tungsten per year together with German sites.
The BMW Group has always considered its products in view of their entire life cycle. As early as the development stage, engineers consider which components in the vehicle are suitable for the use of recycled raw materials. An important aspect in the planning of new products is also how efficiently and cost-effectively pure raw materials can be recovered at the end of their life. Like no other automotive company, the BMW Group sets ambitious targets for the use of secondary materials in all areas of the company and is even making the circular economy the focus of the IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich.
The hard metal tungsten serves as an example for the recovery of raw materials in the production process. The diamond-hard and heat-resistant metal is used by the BMW Group in drilling and milling inserts and is used, for example, at the BMW Group plant in Steyr for the high-precision machining of e-drive housings. Here, as well as in all German plants, the BMW Group collects these carbide tools in order to recycle them. This reduces the demand for tungsten by seven tonnes per year. Compared to the use of primary tungsten, energy consumption is also reduced by 70% and CO2 emissions by over 60%.
The BMW Group is constantly intensifying its activities with regard to other raw materials. They are increasing the use of recycled aluminium in the car body and completely avoiding rare-earths in the latest generation of its electric motors. Further, they are purchasing lithium and cobalt for the production of battery cells themselves and making them available to battery cell suppliers in order to have complete transparency regarding mining and origin.