Ever since the original Audi A8 back in the mid ’90s, the Ingolstadt-based brand has been using aluminum-intensive chassis. Dubbed “Audi Space Frame”, the original A8 was build largely using aluminum, which was relatively unheard of in a standard road car at the time. So Audi has been a pioneer of lightweight material usage since the ’90s and has continued to use extensive amounts of aluminum in many of the cars it makes. However, it’s not just its aluminum usage that makes Audi special but also its sustainability.
“The efficient and frugal use of resources is just as important to us as the reduction of our CO2 emissions,” says Marco Philippi, Head of Procurement Strategy. “The energy input for the reuse of secondary aluminum is up to 95 percent lower than for the production of primary aluminum.”
All aluminum sheet off-cuts are sent back to the supplier for them to be recycled and reused to make more sheets of aluminum. Those new sheets are then sent to Audi to be used and the cycle continues again and again. This creates a closed loop of aluminum usage and recycling, allowing Audi to be as energy efficient as possible, as the production of aluminum is very energy intensive.
This closed loop system of aluminum usage began at Audi’s Neckarsulm plant back in 2017. However, in 2019, Audi added a second aluminum supplier to the mix to actually increase efficiency. Apparently, this addition reduced around 150,000 metric tons of CO2 from the previous year.
The Audi Ingolstadt plant has just been put on the aluminum closed loop and the Gy?r, Hungary plant is to follow next year.
Every Audi sedan or hatchback, from the A3 all the way up to the A8, uses at least some aluminum in the body structure, with some models like the Audi A8 obviously using far more. There’s also some of the lightweight stuff used in the Audi e-tron and e-tron Sportback, though obviously not enough being that both of those cars weigh more than elephants.
Speaking of the Audi e-tron and e-tron Sportback, the production of electric cars actually increases both aluminum production and CO2 emissions. So Audi is currently working with its material suppliers to create new methods of reducing emissions, being more efficient with its material usage and manufacturing. The hope is that by 2025, to reduce emissions by 1.2 metric tons per vehicle on average. That’s a huge number but hopefully one Audi can achieve in the near future.