Volvo Cars is teaming up with Swedish steel maker SSAB to jointly explore the development of fossil-free, high-quality steel for use in the automotive industry.
The collaboration makes Volvo Cars the first carmaker to work with SSAB and its HYBRIT initiative (earlier post), the steel industry’s most ambitious and advanced projects in fossil-free steel development. (In April 2021, the Volvo Group—the heavy-duty vehicle, construction equipment and power solutions provider, distinct from Volvo Cars— and SSAB signed a collaboration agreement on research, development, serial production and commercialization of vehicles to be made of fossil-free steel (earlier post.))
HYBRIT was started by SSAB, iron ore producer LKAB and energy firm Vattenfall. It aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for iron ore-based steelmaking, with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen. The result is expected to be fossil-free steelmaking technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.
HYBRIT’s research program is divided into different work packages, corresponding to the different major elements of the process: supply of renewable electricity; production of hydrogen; fossil-free production of iron ore pellets; reduction of iron oxide in the iron ore by hydrogen-based technologies; smelting iron produced by the direct reduction process in electric arc furnaces; and investigating ways and strategies to realize the transition to hydrogen-based iron and steel production with fossil-free energy. Source: HYBRIT
As part of the collaboration, Volvo Cars will be the first car maker to secure SSAB steel made from hydrogen-reduced iron from HYBRIT’s pilot plant in Luleå, Sweden. This steel will be used for testing purposes and may be used in a concept car.
In 2026, SSAB aims to supply the market with fossil-free steel at a commercial scale. Volvo Cars aims to also be the first car maker to use fossil-free steel for its own production cars.
The global steel industry accounts for around 7% of global direct carbon emissions, due to the fact that the industry is currently dominated by an iron ore-based steel making technology, using blast furnaces depending on coking coal.
For Volvo Cars, the CO2 emissions related to steel and iron production for its cars amount to around 35% in a traditionally powered car and 20% in a fully electric car of the total CO2 emissions from the material and production of the components going into the car.
Volvo Cars’ ambition is to be a fully electric car brand by 2030, with only pure electric cars in its line-up.
The company also seeks to tackle carbon emissions in its wider operations, its supply chain and through recycling and reuse of materials. In the short term, these and other steps aim to reduce the life cycle carbon footprint per car by 40% between 2018 and 2025. By 2040, Volvo Cars’ ambition is to be a climate-neutral company.