Inside Audi | Cutting water consumption in production | Sustainability | Audi USA

Audi’s plan to cut water consumption in half by 2035.

Published on: 03/21/21
Clean drinking water is one of our most valuable resources. It plays a vital role in all of our daily lives, which is why Audi is including economical and efficient use of water as a key global initiative of its Mission:Zero environmental program. The company plans to increase the use of rainwater and implement closed water cycles into production processes.

Water is essential in many industrial processes, including automotive production. For example, water is critical to Audi vehicle paint shops and in our rain leak testing. Peter Kössler, Board Member for Production and Logistics, says “Our goal is to drastically reduce freshwater consumption and cut the water consumption per produced vehicle in half by 2035. Where possible, we are already using recycled water… Our vision is to have closed water cycles at all our production sites.”

Audi Mexico has reused and purified all production wastewater since 2018.

The plant is one of the first in the world to purify and reuse all wastewater created during vehicle production, and has been doing so since 2018. A biological treatment facility with a downstream ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis system collects and purifies the wastewater used in production for reuse. With a water reservoir that collects and treats up to 240,000 cubic meters of rainwater a year, Audi Mexico is leading the charge when it comes to water conservation.

Establishing a closed water cycle at Neckarsulm.

Audi is piloting a closed water treatment system running between the Neckarsulm Plant and the neighboring municipal treatment facility operated by the Unteres Sulmtal wastewater association. Filter systems treat the water for reuse while continuously checking the water quality throughout the process. To ensure quality control, laboratory tests are performed every two weeks. If the pilot is successful, a new water supply facility will begin construction in 2022 with the aim to achieve a closed water cycle for the plant in 2025.

Audi’s Ingolstadt plant celebrates new water supply system, installed in 2019.

The new system, used together with the existing treatment facility, recycles approximately half of the wastewater used in production through a rigorous three-step process, saving about 300,000 cubic meters of fresh water every year. The water is first treated to remove heavy metals before entering a membrane bioreactor. Next, the water is mixed with sanitary wastewater to remove organic components and remaining salts are extracted via reverse osmosis. Finally, the purified wastewater is reintroduced into the plant’s water cycle.

The water facility also collects rainwater in underground retention basins to augment the onsite recycled water, providing up to 250,000 cubic meters of additional water supply annually, depending on rainfall.
Aerial view of the Neckarsulum Plant in Germany.

Bird’s eye view of the Neckarsulum Plant in Germany.

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