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Lightweight Construction Summit 2017 "Consider the Entire Value Chain"

Editor: Janina Seit

The production of lightweight materials should be ecologically balanced. At the Lightweight Construction Summit, Dr. Stephan Krinke of Volkswagen presented a similar approach: Life Cycle Engineering.

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Dr. Stephan Krinke of Volkswagen at the Lightweight Construction Summit 2017
Dr. Stephan Krinke of Volkswagen at the Lightweight Construction Summit 2017
(Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

Dr. Stephan Krinke, Head of Environment and Environmental Management at Volkswagen AG, approached the topic of ecological lightweight construction from the point of view of environment protection. This aspect entails significant challenges such as decarbonization, scarcity of resources and increasingly stricter legal requirements. In addition, the expectations of politicians, customers and environmental associations regarding the environmental performance of manufacturers have risen enormously. Krinke sees key elements for the solution of this issues in resource efficiency and life cycle strategies.

Against this background, the VW manager pointed out the VW Group's alignment with the "Together 2025" strategy, which has started last year. The Wolfsburg-based automotive group has set itself the goal of becoming a leading provider of sustainable mobility and thus also a role model in environment protection.

Dr. Stephan Krinke of Volkswagen
Dr. Stephan Krinke of Volkswagen
(Source: Stefan Bausewein)

Production with a High Level of CO2 Emissions

Considering the CO2 footprint over the entire life cycle, Krinke predicts clear trends until 2020: in order to comply with fleet limits, CO2 emissions from vehicle use are likely to fall. However, the head of environmental management expects CO2 emissions caused during production to increase, in particular regarding the implementation of lightweight construction and electrification. Krinke made it clear that the relevance of individual aspects in the product life cycle will shift.

Life Cycle Engineering, however, offers an approach to solve this challenge. “Life Cycle Engineering analyzes and evaluates the environmental performance of products and technologies over their entire lifecycle and with regard to all environmental aspects," Krinke explained. He identified key success factors that determine the outcome of this process. The priority lies in organization, i.e. a clear strategy, goals and responsibilities as well as the integration of life cycle engineering into the development process.

Transfer Goes Beyond the Basics

The second step is followed by an analysis that includes for instance the cost-efficiency of processes. The step from analysis to the third level involves concrete optimization, i.e. the transformation of environmental balances into measurable technical targets. Krinke describes this step as "the actual master stroke". Afterwards, the VW representative was focusing on life cycle engineering in his speech on lightweight construction and electromobility. He took the CO2 profile of various lightweight construction materials used in production as an example. Magnesium, for instance, causes large amounts of greenhouse emissions during processing. Krinke therefore emphasized: "If I don't deal with the entire value-added chain, i.e. the question of how and where the material is produced, then I will miss the target by a long shot”.

He also addressed the suppliers in the audience and encouraged cooperation and "management along the value chain". However, the partially undesired values of lightweight construction materials during production, should not lead to the conclusion that cars should be made entirely of steel again. Instead, he advocated intelligent lightweight construction, which can be influenced in a positive way with the help of life cycle engineering. This engineering method ”uses suitable means that allow products to make ecological progress over the entire life cycle", says Krinke.

High CO2 Emissions During the Utilization Phase

While the ecological extra burdens caused during production could be balanced out, full amortization depends on the CO2 emissions during the utilization phase, i.e. the mileage. In this regard, electro-mobility is likely to do better than combustion engines. According to Krinke, this leads to this conclusion: "The lower the CO2 emissions during the service life of a vehicle are, the more demanding will it be to balance out the high levels of CO2 emissions caused during the production of lightweight materials".

In his conclusion, Krinke emphasized once again that cooperation along the value chain and the joint development of new environmentally friendly technologies and business models are crucial to the success of life cycle engineering. Therefore, he prefers cooperation between OEMs and suppliers.

This article was first published by Automobil Industrie..

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