ZKW develops climate-neutral electronics and electrics for Polestar
Austrian-based automotive supplier focuses on CO2 emission-free production and sustainability
ZKW is a partner of the Swedish electric vehicle manufacturer Polestar. The aim of the “Polestar 0” project is to develop and launch a completely climate-neutral automobile by 2030. For this ambitious project, the Wieselburg-based lighting systems specialist will develop electronic and electrical components for Polestar. ZKW is also converting to CO2-neutral production worldwide by 2025. This goal is to be achieved with energy savings, waste avoidance and the switch to green electricity. “As part of the joint project, we are investigating the potential of the circular economy to reduce the ecological footprint of our products to zero in the future. We are therefore stepping up sustainable, environmentally friendly production. By 2038, all our products are to be manufactured in a climate-neutral way,” explains Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
The “Polestar 0” project aims to completely eliminate emissions from the supply chain and sustainably change automotive manufacturing processes instead of offsetting CO2 emissions. Polestar has decided to pursue this goal because the transport sector is the fastest growing contributor to greenhouse gases. The United Nations Environment Programme expects transport to account for more than 30 percent of total CO2 emissions in the future.
New materials and processes
Modern headlamps consist of many different components, including various plastics and electronic components. For sustainable production, the proportion of plastics must be reduced on the one hand, for example by using bio-based or recycled materials. An analysis by ZKW has shown that electronics are a key driver for climate-neutral headlights. Here, harmful emissions can be avoided in printed circuit boards – for example, through new materials and optimization of process technology – but also by switching to CO2-neutral electronic components and in assembly (e.g., through energy-optimized equipment and green power).
Alternative manufacturing concepts
Making electronic and electrical components carbon-neutral requires more than just new materials and process technologies. So-called “carbon capturing” in the manufacturing process, waste avoidance and recycling also make CO2-neutral production possible. Even the reusability of repaired headlights is conceivable. “Where emissions cannot be avoided, alternatives must be found. For example, a connector housing could be made from biogenic raw materials, or it could be dispensed with by using other connection methods, such as direct plug connections or printed-edge connectors,” says Oliver Schubert.
Industrial research project
With the “SusMat4CarLight” project funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG, ZKW in Wieselburg is conducting research on the topic of sustainable, recyclable material composites for future car headlights. The entire supply chain is to be included and compensation through CO2 certificates is to be dispensed with. Among other things, the project deals with new high-performance materials, integration of different technologies in value chains, innovative surfaces and processes, and application-optimized material processing. Partners in the research project are Joanneum Research Forschungsgesellschaft, the Materials Institute for Surface Technologies and Photonics and the University of Leoben. “We are investigating all possible potentials of the circular economy in order to achieve our goal of CO2-neutral production by 2025,” explains Schubert.
In its sustainability concept, which includes production, product and people, ZKW focuses on energy efficiency and the purchase of renewable energies such as green electricity and the avoidance of waste in production. Sustainable investments, such as the excellent plant building at the Slovakian site in Krušovce, are another important component of the concept. The company also promotes employee commitment to environmental protection and sustainability with the “Global sustainability idea challenge”. The next step is to make all ZKW products CO2-neutral by 2038. In addition to CO2 emission-free production at all sites, this plan also includes upstream supply chains.
In Wieselburg and Wiener Neustadt, ZKW relies on heat recovery, efficient cooling or heating, and the avoidance of waste by optimizing consumption in order to avoid CO2. The greatest savings potential exists in the use of electricity. The Wieselburg site covers part of its energy requirements from its own hydropower plant and the rest from the public grid – since the beginning of 2022 as green electricity. The ZKW sites in Wiener Neustadt, Haag and Dietach are also to become CO2-neutral. At the international locations, it is planned for the time being to purchase green electricity certificates.