Volkswagen is the first automaker to transport most of its new vehicles overseas using low-emission LNG ships. After the first two LNG car carriers entered service in 2020, Volkswagen Group Logistics has now ordered four more ships with dual-fuel engines that can be powered with LNG. These should be traveling the world’s oceans by the end of 2023, serving the North American route between Emden in Germany and Veracruz in Mexico.
Models of the new LNG ships for the Volkswagen Group’s ocean-going fleet.
On the return trip, the LNG ships will transport new vehicles destined for Europe. Soon, six of the nine car carriers crossing the North Atlantic for Volkswagen will be powered by LNG.
The further decarbonization of shipping will result in substantial CO2 reductions, with the use of liquid natural gas enabling Volkswagen to cut the ships’ CO2 emissions by up to 25% percent (tank-to-wake).
Volkswagen was one of the first car manufacturers to subscribe to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement that aim to limit global warming to significantly less than two degrees by 2050. The Volkswagen Group has therefore committed to e-mobility as well as to the sustainable production and use of new electric vehicles. The company follows the principle of focusing first on the avoidance of CO2 emissions and then on reducing emissions as far as possible. Only unavoidable emissions are offset by climate protection measures.
In Germany, the Group has already switched all rail transport with Deutsche Bahn to green electricity and is extending this to transport throughout Europe. On coastal routes, the Group already operates two car carriers with biofuel produced from plant-based residues such as waste oil from the food industry. This has resulted in an 85% reduction in CO2 emissions (well-to-wake).
Exclusive long-term agreements have been signed with shipowners Wallenius Marine and SFL Corporation for the use of the four new car carriers on the North Atlantic route. The ships are being built in China; each has a capacity of around 7,000 CEU (car equivalent units), which corresponds to between 4,400 and 4,700 vehicles from the Volkswagen Group’s model mix.
The ships will be powered by 13,300 kW dual-fuel engines from MAN Energy Solutions and, in eco-speed mode, will be able to travel at speeds of 15 to 16 knots (28 to 30 km/h).
In contrast to other LNG-powered marine engines, the two-stroke engines from MAN Energy Solutions use a high-pressure technology that results in virtually no methane slip, making the ships chartered by Group Logistics especially climate-friendly. The two LNG ships that came into service in 2020 are also equipped with this climate-friendly technology, which was a key factor in choosing these ships.
The use of LNG not only reduces CO2 emissions. It also cuts the emissions of nitrogen oxides by up to 30%, soot particles by up to 60% and sulfur oxides by as much as up to 100%. The liquid gas-powered car carriers require no modification to be able to run on alternative non-fossil fuels such as biogas, e-gas from renewable sources and biodiesel.
It will also be possible to retrofit two of the new ships with battery cells to achieve further reductions in fuel consumption. All four LNG ships will have shore power connections which means they can eliminate all local emissions in ports providing this facility.
Each year, Volkswagen Group Logistics organizes some 7,700 ship departures worldwide. As well as utilizing capacities on hundreds of scheduled cargo vessels, eleven car carriers operate exclusively for Volkswagen. Two of the eleven charter vessels on the European coastal routes are powered by biofuel. Each year, the Volkswagen Group ships 2.8 million new cars.