An emissions-free truck plant – is it possible?

Before anyone seemed overly concerned about the state of our planet, Volvo Group made the environment one of its core values back in 1972. Global emissions standards have pushed the company to develop truck engines that are virtually smog-free. However, the company is taking that one step further and attempting to create a truck that can be built, operated and then disposed of with no impact on the environment. It’s a lofty goal, but one the company is aggressively working towards achieving.
Look no further than Volvo Group’s Ghent, Belgium truck plant. The company is aiming to make it the world’s first CO2-free truck plant, and it’s making strides in the right direction. Using wind and solar power combined with bio-electricity, Volvo Group has already achieved a 23% energy reduction at the plant. Its current target is a 50% reduction in C02 emissions and if it wasn’t for a steady increase in production volume, the company would be close to its target today.
Patrick Collignon, managing director of Volvo Trucks Belgium, discussed the company’s progress at the recent European Transport Forum. He admitted he was initially a “non-believer” when Volvo approached him about the project. The target seemed too ambitious, he said, but with the progress that’s already been made he is now convinced it’s an achievable goal. Collignon said Volvo truck plants around the world will be following suit in the years to come and he pointed out Volvo’s New River Valley plant in the US is already experimenting with wind turbines and solar panels.
It still has a long way to go before becoming a completely CO2-free plant, but it’s encouraging to see how much progress is being made at Ghent. CO2 has been largely ignored as truck makers have been focusing their attention on tackling particulate matter and NOx emissions. But it’s very likely that CO2, which is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, will be the next substance targeted by the EPA. CO2-free trucks are already in operation today. Volvo showcased seven different types of CO2-free trucks at the Forum and more information on the technology will be in the November issues of Truck News and Truck West. All that’s preventing the widespread use of CO2-free trucks is the availability of bio-fuels, the company insists.
Reducing CO2 emissions while constructing the trucks, and then eventually disposing of them, will most likely pose an even greater challenge to vehicle manufacturers. But the groundwork is already being laid out and Volvo Group deserves a nod of approval for being proactive in this regard.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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