Most companies want to achieve total CO2 neutrality by 2040, but the road for car manufacturers is through the reduction of emissions per vehicle.

In fact, each car produced carries a kind of emissions 'load' in which the emissions generated for its construction are added up, taking into account the entire supply chain, i.e. the origin and transformation of each component. Therefore, it is not enough for the factories where they are assembled to be neutral, but it is important to obtain low-emission raw materials, especially metals, which account for the largest share.

Three quarters of the weight is metal

Although research into synthetic materials continues in the search for metal substitutes, steel and aluminium remain for the time being the irreplaceable base materials for the structural part of cars and, above all, constitute the majority share in terms of weight.

Therefore, in order to significantly reduce emissions per vehicle, it is essential to reduce the emissions 'baggage' that steel and aluminium bring to every car that is built.

BMW Group, acciaio prodotto senza emissioni di CO2

BMW Group, steel produced without CO2 emissions

Progress in this regard for the major manufacturers comes from two different directions: recycling and the supply of new materials produced with low-carbon technologies. The latter, in particular, is becoming a key point in industrial plans, as recycled materials do not always have the mechanical properties needed to make up the load-bearing structures of cars in compliance with safety standards.

Manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Volvo have in the last two years announced important agreements with start-ups and metallurgical companies committed to researching production methods that reduce or even eliminate emissions in metal processing, i.e. the smelting and transformation of metal ores into profiles and basic rolled products.

Acero producido con energía verde en Suecia

Steel produced with 'green' energy in Sweden

Mercedes-Benz and BMW have entered into agreements with companies such as Boston Metals and H2 Green Steel, companies that have replaced traditional smelting in fossil-fuelled furnaces with systems based on technologies such as electric arc and thus powered by electricity.

Electricity in these cases comes from certified sustainable sources, i.e. a mix of solar, hydro and wind power, which in practice means zero or almost zero emissions from one of the most energy-intensive processes.

Volvo y SSAB, acero libre de fósiles

Volvo and SSAB, together for fossil-free steel

Up to 40% less CO2

Volvo also reiterated the role of low-emission metals in its decarbonisation plans at the last global climate summit COP28 in Dubai. The company's goal is to reduce CO2 emissions per vehicle produced by 75% by 2030 compared to 2018 levels, with an interim milestone of 40% to be achieved by 2025.

This is partly achieved through electric conversion of the product range, reducing the CO2 emitted by factories, but crucial to the next step will be low-carbon materials, which are estimated to be able to generate a reduction of up to 40% on their own.

To accelerate this process, Volvo Cars has joined the World Economic Forum's First Movers Coalition (FMC), which uses its purchasing power to support the diffusion of new technologies that can facilitate the transition to zero or near-zero emissions aluminium. For steel, Volvo is turning to SSAB, another Swedish company that will supply steel processed by 'green' processes from 2026.

Gallery: Steel and aluminium, how to make them green