Porsche is aiming for a carbon-neutral balance sheet across the entire value chain by 2030. An important piece of the puzzle is the transport of parts and finished vehicles. For more than 20 years (since 1 September 2000, to be precise) the Stuttgart-based automaker has used rail to haul vehicles destined for export to the ports. Today, around 80 percent of new vehicles leave the plants in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen and Leipzig by rail – in 2020 alone, this amounted to more than 100,000 units. In early 2018, Porsche even shifted to fully carbon-neutral methods for its rail transport, running entirely on electricity from renewable sources.
Today, a very large share of Porsche’s transports are already climate neutral, but the company still plans to kick it up a notch. In February 2020 the company began using carbon-free block trains from DB Cargo to transport its all-electric Taycan, which is produced with carbon-neutral methods in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, between the nearby town of Kornwestheim and Bremerhaven and Emden, the ports from which they are exported. The goal is a concerted push to shift cargo onto the rails and to help reduce carbon emissions. Since February, up to five block trains have run every week from Kornwestheim to the north, each carrying about 250 vehicles on board. The transport solution we are providing to Porsche thus has an outsized impact on the environment. After all, we use nothing but renewably sourced electricity for these transports. In 2017, Porsche itself decided that its production sites would use nothing but certified renewable power. By opting for the DBeco plus product, Porsche has made a conscious decision in favour of the most sustainable transport solution.
We spoke to Albrecht Reimold to learn more. Porsche’s Member of the Management Board for Production and Logistics says that sustainability can’t be imposed; it has to come from the heart! A toolmaker by training with a degree in engineering, Reimold has served on Porsche’s board for five years, and is also the godfather of sustainability there.
What makes Porsche and DB Cargo such a great fit?
Albrecht Reimold_ Porsche and DB Cargo have a long tradition together. We are united by our commitment to sustainability. Porsche’s philosophy has always included sustainability; a Porsche is a product with a long lifespan, a principle we have consistently pursued, even beyond legal provisions and requirements. That’s because this is an intrinsic aspiration at Porsche, not only in the production of our vehicles. It is why we repeatedly optimise our logistics processes and enhance their sustainability. So it was almost inevitable for us to turn eventually to rail and ultimately to eco-products to transport our goods. The new transport scheme lets us eliminate several thousand trips by lorries on the highway, trimming our CO₂ emissions by some 20,000 tonnes. We aspire to do a lot more in the future; there is still some room for improvement in our partnership. Looking towards Asia in particular, we still have strong potential – we can make it to China by train in no more than two weeks. By comparison, ships take a good six weeks. Fortunately, both Porsche and DB Cargo are relatively dynamic companies, which is why we have both the aspiration and the ability to move even closer together to fully tap into this kind of potential.
Porsche is gunning for carbon neutrality across the entire value chain by 2030: What role does rail transport have to play here?
AR_ One thing is clear: Porsche’s balance sheet will be carbon neutral in 2030! That’s why our sites in Stuttgart, Leipzig and our development centre in Weissach are already carbon neutral. Logistics, however, is highly critical to achieving this goal. This applies both to our suppliers’ transports from Europe and all over the world and to transports of our finished vehicles. Here, of course, we depend on our logistics partners to use as much renewable energy as possible, i.e. to transport goods with low-carbon or carbon-neutral methods. We want to avoid, optimise and reduce, using offsets for only the last few percent. Of course, rail can play to its full strength here and score points with its propulsion concept – running exclusively on electricity wherever possible and using 100% renewable power. We ourselves have committed to expanding renewable energies. For instance, we are investing over one billion euros over the next ten years in wind turbines, solar energy and other efforts to protect the climate. This will close the circle and allow all of us to benefit from one another.
What impact does Porsche’s Sustainability Board have and what does it mean for DB Cargo?
AR_ Our Sustainability Board is made up of external specialists and renowned experts such as former Minister of the Environment Klaus Töpfer and Sarah Jastra, Professor of Business Ethics and Sustainability. The board holds a mirror up to everything we do. Among other things, this helps us to recognise that sustainability is a global task and cannot be solved in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen alone. I am happy to repeat myself here: we can solve this only together, and we are dependent on strong partners to do it. I always say sustainability knows no competition. We also work closely with DB Cargo and try to come up with creative solutions to drive sustainability across the board.