May 09, 2023 – Together with steel, aluminium is proportionally the most widely used material in many vehicles. As aluminium is significantly lighter than steel, the material is becoming increasingly important, especially in electric vehicles. However, the production and processing of this light metal is very energy-intensive and CO₂ emissions in the production of conventional aluminium are correspondingly high. Accordingly, aluminium with significantly reduced carbon footprint is an important lever for a sustainable supply chain and for a significant reduction in CO₂ emissions - and therefore an important proofpoint of our Ambition 2039.
Mercedes-Benz is working with its partners on the goal to decarbonise the aluminium supply chain. In December 2022, the vehicle manufacturer brand with the three-pointed star and the Norwegian aluminium manufacturer Hydro signed a letter of intent (LoI) for a low-carbon technology roadmap between 2023 and 2030. This is a key milestone towards decarbonisation, a green aluminium supply chain and thus reducing the CO₂ footprint in our products.
Already today, Hydro already supplies Mercedes-Benz with CO₂-reduced aluminium that comes from electrolysis powered by renewables. As a next milestone, Hydro will supply even further CO₂-reduced aluminium to the foundry at the Mercedes-Benz plant Untertürkheim (Mettingen section): With a minimum of 25 percent recycled material in the tested aluminum from Hydro the carbon footprint can be reduced by nearly 70 percent compared to the European average.
In Mettingen, the more stustainable material is planned to be integrated into sophisticated structural components for body-in-white applications: Among other parts, the aluminium from Hydro is going to be used for safety-relevant components, such as the shock towers for the models EQS, EQE, S-Class, E-Class, GLC and C-Class. Furthermore, the EQE will be equipped with longitudinal members made of low CO₂ aluminium. Mercedes-Benz also plans to use the material for various other parts such as the support frame for the electric powertrain of the upcoming vehicle platform MMA (Mercedes Modular Architecture).
Combining innovative strength: Partnership-based technology roadmap
As part of the company’s Ambition 2039, Mercedes-Benz aims to integrate aluminium with a carbon footprint decreased by 90 per cent compared with the European average into its vehicles by 2030. This will be achieved by including the use of CO₂-optimised aluminium oxide and reductions of CO₂ emissions resulting from the electrolysis process by using green electricity and innovative technologies. At the same time, the partners are working together to further increase the proportion of recycled material content.
Next to technological improvements, increasing the use of recycling material content plays a major role for realising further CO₂ reductions. Producing aluminium by using only secondary material requires five percent of the energy compared to aluminium production based on primary resources. As part of the collaboration, Mercedes-Benz and Hydro even want to take it one step further by exploring solutions how to implement a closed-loop-recycling.
Active engagement for a sustainable and just aluminium supply chain
Mercedes-Benz is committed to the responsible sourcing of aluminium, relying on the application of recognized standards and robust certificates. As part of the non-profit Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) Mercedes-Benz supports the spread of an independent certification scheme for the entire aluminium value chain.
For Mercedes-Benz, it is a priority to engage with local communities to address human rights risks in raw material supply chains. To build expertise around community participation in audits and standards processes, the company supports a project in cooperation with the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) since late 2021. The pilot project pursues the goal of creating better opportunities to participate in audit processes for the local population affected by mining. The core of the project is to gain insights into the participation of communities in audits and to incorporate these into standardization processes. Very specifically, the collaboration aims to increase the involvement of affected local communities before, during and after the assessment of mine sites. This is to ensure that the processes actually have a positive impact on the situation on-site.
Following this principle Mercedes-Benz and Hydro plan to work together through their respective memberships in standard initiatives to work on transparent and inclusive processes that lower the hurdles for stakeholder participation, especially for mining communities and indigenous peoples. Both potential partners share the same understanding of sustainability, which is the prerequisite for a long-term partnership.