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September 21, 2016

Car Factories Go Green to Save Green

Easy_going_greenIt just makes sense: car companies that want to be known for producing eco-friendly cars build them at eco-friendly factories.

Kia has planted five million trees and initiated other green initiatives at its manufacturing plants around the world. Trees soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and the five million trees Kia has planted promise to soak up the equivalent of 107.5 million tons of CO2 a year.

The greening of Kia factories includes its U.S. facility in West Point, Ga., where the Sorento SUV and Optima sedan are produced. The interior of the Kia Soul EV is 10 percent biodegradable plastic, bio-foam, and bio-fabric. Unlike plastics based from oils, bio-based materials are derived from eco-friendly materials.

Recycling reduces waste, along with energy consumption. Since 2009, Ford has mandated 25 percent recycled content for all its models, and uses more than 30 fabrics to meet that requirement; the company uses about one million yards of recycled fabric each year. Fabric in the Ford Focus EV is made from recycled water bottles.

Ford also uses soy-based bio-foam in seat cushions, head restraints, and headliners. Soy foam costs less to produce than traditional petroleum-based materials, uses less petroleum to produce, and produces about 15 percent less carbon dioxide emissions. All good.

1__gw__nissan_tenn._energy_efficient_paint_plantJeep uses soy-based acoustic foam in Cherokee models. The foam is lighter and less expensive than oil-based foam, which benefits both production cost and fuel economy.

Ford also has switched to what's called a 3-Wet paint process, which gets its name from applying primer, base coat, and clear coat while each layer is still wet. That process saves close to 25 percent of time it takes to paint a vehicle, reducing assembly line costs. Equally important, the process results in significant reductions of CO2, along with reductions in volatile organic compounds, known as VOC.

Nissan works with the City of Detroit to plant trees in parks, schoolyards, and along neighborhood streets and roadways. Since 2012, in association with the non-profit group "Greening of Detroit," the program has planted more than 70,000 new trees. Nissan also donated a Titan truck to help with the project.

2__gw__vw_solar_park_chattanoogaEarlier this year Nissan switched to solar power for its factory in Sunderland, UK. The Nissan solar farm is made up of 19,000 photovoltaic panels, installed alongside 10 wind turbines. Nissan makes its Leaf EV and its batteries in the U.S., making this a green car produced by green energy. Nissan also has a wind farm at its factory in Mexico.

Volkswagen also uses solar power for its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the Passat is produced. It covers 33 acres with nearly 34,000 solar modules and produces more than 13 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power a year, enough to power 1,200 homes.

General Motors uses solar energy to power EV charging stations for employees and visitors to its facilities, including at the GM Shanghai headquarters complex. And a bike-sharing program allows more than 19,000 employees to commute to, and get around inside, the sprawling 330-acre Warren Technical Center in Michigan. GM also has a program to work with suppliers to design parts with less scrap waste, and ship them in containers with less cardboard waste.

Going green is more than a fad. It's helping sustain the bottom line along with the environment. That's a win-win for all of us.

Evelyn-kanterby Evelyn Kanter, for Motor Matters

Evelyn Kanter has been reporting on the automotive industry since 1976, when she was an award-winning investigative consumer reporter for ABC News. She was also a reporter for CBS News. Evelyn writes for Continental Airlines Magazine,, AAA Car and Travel, and has written for the New York Times, New York Post, Associated Press, Copley News Service, Travel & Leisure, Redbook, Family Circle and She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and lives in New York City.

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