Mercedes-Benz has brought forward its bold plan to introduce carbon-neutral vehicle production – and is trying to find a more efficient way to manufacture 500,000 battery packs per year for its range of electric cars which, experts say, is an “energy intensive process”.
“It would defy the purpose of an electric vehicle if you used too much CO2 to produce it,” Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius told international media during a video conference overnight.
“We (are) focused on battery production,” he said. “For new electric vehicles, there is a certain amount of energy that goes into producing battery cells.”
Mr Källenius said for its upcoming range of electric, plug-in hybrid, and conventional hybrid cars “we’re using CO2-neutral battery cells with our suppliers”.
In preparation for the rollout of a range of at least 10 fully electric cars, SUVs and vans, Mercedes says it also needs battery technology for its increasing number of hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.
Mercedes has built a state-of-the-art battery factory (pictured below) in Kamenz – near the German border with Poland in the country’s east – and already has another facility in China. Other Mercedes battery factories are under construction in the US and Europe.
Jörg Burzer, who is in charge of Mercedes manufacturing, says each battery pack contains 384 cells which must be laser-welded with surgical accuracy.
The Mercedes battery factory in Kamenz has already produced more than half a million power packs for hybrids, mild-hybrids and fully electric cars – and the company says it will soon be making 500,000 per year at this facility alone.
Despite the energy intensity involved in manufacturing battery packs for electric cars, Mercedes says it has expanded the number of planned carbon-neutral factories beyond Europe – including its SUV assembly line in the US – and brought forward its internal deadline.
“Early this year, I visited our operations in Alabama in the US,” said Mr Källenius. “The team there said that what can be done in Europe can be done there too. So now we plan for worldwide carbon-neutral production in our own passenger car and van (factories) by 2022.”
Mercedes says it is also working with parts suppliers to also reach carbon-neutral manufacturing practices. Such a move will no doubt improve the environmental credentials of its upcoming electric cars including the flagship EQS (pictured below in prototype form).
“It’s also about reducing the amount of energy,” said Mr Källenius. “How much electricity do you use to produce something? How much water? How much waste? How do you minimise that? How do you recycle? It’s all coming together.”