Jaguar Land Rover shifts gears

11th March 2013

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Paul Suff discovers how Jaguar Land Rover is driving down environmental impacts across its operations

Lighter, more aerodynamic vehicles, greater use of renewable and recycled materials, and easier disassembly at the end of life are all initiatives being employed by Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in its journey to improve environmental performance. More efficient manufacturing, strict environmental standards for suppliers and improving logistics also feature in a sustainability strategy aimed at reducing the environmental and social impacts of JLR vehicles across their life cycle, from product design to the end of a vehicle’s life.

The company’s Range Rover Evoque is its lightest-ever vehicle, with one model 30.9% lighter than the 2012 Range Rover Sport, and it produces 3.8 tonnes fewer greenhouse-gas emissions over a car’s life cycle than a comparable Freelander 2. Similarly, life-cycle emissions from the latest Jaguar XJ are 5.2 tonnes less than the previous model.

The all new Range Rover, which was launched in September 2012, maximises the use of aluminium, saving up to 420kg on the outgoing model and delivering a 23% reduction in tailpipe CO2 emissions. And 85% of the materials in the vehicle can be recycled at the end of its life.

On target

Environmental targets set by JLR in 2009 – after its acquisition by Tata Motors – include a 25% reduction in carbon emissions across its EU fleet by 2015, against a 2007 baseline, and similar cuts in operational CO2 output and waste to landfill by spring 2013. JLR also has 2013 targets for water use (-10%) and emissions from its logistics operations (-15%).

Tailpipe emissions account for 75% of a car’s carbon footprint, and improvements in design have seen such emissions from JLR’s EU fleet fall by almost 14%, on average, between 2007 and 2012.

The company will report soon on its performance against the 2013 deadline and outline new, stretching targets for 2020. The most recently available data reveals that JLR is on track to meet this year’s milestones. Between 2007 and 2012 the firm had, on a per-vehicle-manufactured basis, cut:

  • operational carbon emissions by 15%;
  • waste to landfill by 37%;
  • water consumption by 10%; and
  • carbon emissions from inbound logistics – components and materials delivered to JLR’s three manufacturing facilities – by 22%;

Meanwhile, emissions from outbound logistics – finished products to market – have fallen by 9% per vehicle since 2008.

Investment across the business, including £370 million at JLR’s Lode Lane plant in Solihull (which produces the fourth-generation Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Discovery and Defender) will see further progress against the 2013 targets. The site, for example, opened an aluminium body shop for the new Range Rover, and its paintshop and trim facilities were upgraded in September 2012.

Alan Volkaerts, operations director at the plant, says the investment is crucial if JLR is to achieve its long-term environmental objectives. He believes the JLR workforce is equally important. “For every environmental target you can read technology and investment and hearts and minds. We aim to engage employees in our environmental goals,” he says.

The importance of employee engagement with environmental issues is highlighted by the motto underpinning JLR’s blueprint for a sustainable future: “Respect our environment, connect our people and protect our business.”

Volkaerts explains that employees work to achieve plant targets that are linked to the corporate goals. “Basically, JLR has some top-level metrics, which are cascaded down to functional leads, like myself. It’s my job to turn these into something meaningful for my team,” he says.

“I know what we have to achieve at Lode Lane in terms of reducing electricity, gas and water consumption, and waste to landfill. These are all on my scorecard and are measured monthly. We have regular forums to see whether or not we’re on track.”

JLR also asks employees to identify ways to help meet its targets. “They’ll report that taps are dripping or where there’s a potential air leak, for example, and come up with ideas to reduce waste,” confirms Volkaerts

Factories of the future

While product design is the best way for the company to reduce the environmental impacts of its vehicles, improving the energy efficiency of its manufacturing operations as well as reducing waste, water consumption and solvent use provides opportunities for JLR to address its overall environmental footprint.

The company’s new engine manufacturing plant in Wolverhampton, which will open later this year, is designed with sustainability in mind and aims to achieve a BREEAM excellent rating. Insulated cladding and maximum use of natural light and ventilation – through automatic louvres – will minimise energy consumption.

In addition, all equipment will be metered and linked to a central building management system; waste heat will warm the factory; and harvested rainwater will be used in the manufacturing process.

JLR is also improving efficiency at its existing plants. Much of the Lode Lane site dates from the 1940s, but the construction of new buildings and retrofitting of existing ones, as well as changes to manufacturing systems and equipment, has cut energy consumption significantly. The bodyshop building dates from the 1960s, but refurbishment, including replacing the roof to improve insulation, has saved JLR around 20% on its energy bill. The new visitor centre has photovoltaic panels, which have contributed to the building achieving a BREEAM rating of very good.

The Solihull site also boasts a solar wall. The technology, which was trialled at JLR’s training academy in Gaydon, is installed on the most southerly elevations and draws air from outside into a building through a number of tiny perforations in the sun-warmed external metal skin. As the air passes through these perforations it becomes heated. The warm air passes into an air cavity and rises to the top where it is distributed around the building. “It helps to keep the warmth in the winter and to cool the building in the summer,” comments Volkaerts.

Replacing sodium and fluorescent lamps with energy-efficient LED lighting and installing passive infrared (PIR) detectors is giving JLR big cost and carbon savings at Lode Lane. The LED lighting reduces energy consumption by 70%, saving more than 1,000 tonnes of CO2 a year and cutting annual costs by over £140,000. Return on investment for the new lighting was less than two years, while the longer lifespan of LEDs reduces annual maintenance costs.

At the same time, PIR detectors have been installed in offices, foyers, corridors, rest rooms and toilets to turn off lights automatically when there is no activity for 15 minutes and provide further savings. “Investment in PIRs means our ‘power down’ is now more successful between shifts and at weekends,” reports Joe McNamara, lean manufacturing manager at Lode Lane.

From welding to rivets and beyond

Lode Lane also provides examples of how changes to the manufacturing process are assisting JLR to achieve its environment targets. The all-aluminium monocoque body structure for the new Range Rover – a world first for a sports utility vehicle – has provided the company with more opportunities to recycle and reuse materials, as well as further reduce energy use.

The press shop, where steel and aluminium is stamped into body parts and panels, is subject to strict recycling targets. Not only do operators such as Brent Powell have to segregate off-cuts of the two metals, they also have to ensure separation of the two grades of aluminium used by JLR. “Contamination between the two shouldn’t be higher than 5%,” notes Powell.

He explains that revenue from scrap aluminium varies between 56% and 92% of the base price, depending on the quality of the material. Dedicated trailers for scrap steel and aluminium are fitted with transponders that record the weight of the waste and ensure it is tipped into the correct container.

In September 2012, JLR signed a long-term supply contract with Novelis, the world’s leading producer of rolled aluminium, which includes the recovery and recycling of all the automaker’s aluminium scrap, creating a closed-loop recycling system. Recycled aluminium is up to 95% less carbon intensive than virgin aluminium.

Moving to all-aluminium body structures for its vehicles has allowed spotwelding in assembly to be replaced by self-piercing rivets. A total of 3,722 rivets hold together the 403 parts of a Range Rover, and the technology uses less water and energy than conventional assembly techniques. A rivet joint, for example, uses 90% less electricity than a spotwelded one.

“The thing with a steel body shop is that not only do you need heat to weld the parts, but water to cool them down again. So, the aluminium body shop gives us a double whammy, saving both on heat and water, as well as water treatment,” says Volkaerts.

Energy savings in the body shop have also come from fitting variable speed drives to the air compressor units that power its 328 robots. Previously the units would constantly be coming on and offline, requiring 500kW of power to restart each time. The introduction of variable speed drives means the units are always on, delivering as much air as is needed and consuming far less energy. Before the conversion, the units were consuming around 30kWh of electricity each year. That figure has now been halved, and electricity costs cut from £2,000 a year to £991.

Rolling out the technology across the Lode Lane plant cost nearly £200,000, but annual savings total £175,000, enabling JLR to achieve a return on its investment in just 14 months. At the same time, the variable drives have cut carbon emissions by 1,532 tonnes a year. McNamara highlights another benefit: “We’re not now working the units so hard, so we’ve got a more reliable system – one that requires little maintenance.” Other JLR plants have also introduced variable drives.

Another example of how the body shop is saving energy is its installation of controls to automatically power-down production-line equipment. McNamara says a maintenance engineer noticed that robot motors were still consuming power even during long periods of inactivity.

“Each robot takes a break, as a safety feature, but power was still being be used to maintain the ‘hold’ position of the robot because the system wouldn’t allow the robot’s brake to engage,” he explains. “We developed new software which sends a signal to the robot to engage the brake after one hour of inactivity. That takes power off the motor.”

The change, which has now been adopted by the robot’s manufacturer, ABB, saves the Lode Lane plant around £35,000 in electricity costs and 260 tonnes of carbon each year.

The revamped paint shop at Lode Lane, which is spread across seven mezzanine levels and is the second largest paint facility in Europe, accounts for up to half the site’s energy consumption – about 60GWh of electricity and 250GWh of gas a year. In April 2012, the paint shop replaced an infrared oven with a convection oven, which resulted in a 40% improvement in energy efficiency.

JLR is also replacing solvent-based paints with water-based alternatives. Nigel Smith, engineering manager at the paint shop, explains that solvent use is being further reduced by a new system that allows sprayers to switch between colours without purging the previous colour from their spray guns.

All waste paint goes through a washing treatment process to separate solids, which are sent to a cement factory, and solvents, which JLR reuses.

Material change

The all-new Range Rover contains 31.5kg of recycled plastic, while each Evoque has 16kg – the equivalent of reusing 1,000 500ml plastic bottles. The material used to trim the headliner and upper pillars, for example, is made from 100% recycled polyester obtained from plastic bottles and fibres. The recycled materials require 66% less energy to produce, and reduce the production carbon footprint by 54%, says JLR.

More JLR vehicles will be made from recycled materials as preference for aluminium grows. JLR is developing a new alloy, RivAlloy, which has a higher recycled aluminium content and can tolerate higher levels of impurity from scrap. The company is also participating in REALCAR2, a project funded by the Technology Strategy Board to develop the aluminium-recycling infrastructure in the UK. JLR is aiming for its vehicles to eventually contain 75% recycled aluminium.

Easy disassembly of a vehicle at the end of its useable life is key to effective recycling of the materials it contains. Currently, 85% of materials in JLR cars are recyclable, and 95% are recoverable.

Transporting materials to JLR plants is another significant source of emissions, with components and materials collectively travelling up to 25 million miles each year. Finished products travel even further, with 80% of vehicles from UK sites exported to 180 countries. In total, JLR products travel some 50 million miles by road, rail and sea, emitting more than 74,000 tonnes of carbon. In 2011/12, JLR reported that carbon emissions from inbound logistics had fallen by 22% since 2007 per vehicle produced.

Scott Hardy, freight strategy manager, reports that the company recorded a 9% drop in emissions from outbound logistics between 2008 and 2012. That’s against a significant increase in volume over the five years. “The great thing is that just a small change can have a huge impact,” says Hardy. “We are constantly looking for technological innovations, such as telematics on lorries, or driver training so they drive more efficiently.” JLR also shares deliveries with other car manufacturers and now moves more vehicles to ports by rail.

Moving forward

Executive director Mike Wright reports that sustainability is an important board-level issue at JLR (see panel, left). “The environmental implications of running our plants and the vehicles we produce are uppermost on our agenda,” says Wright, who has overall responsibility for sustainability.

He explains that JLR examines the carbon impact of every major decision it takes, citing the construction of the new engine factory in Wolverhampton and siting a new plant in China – JLR announced in November 2012 plans to build a factory in Changshu, near Shanghai – as examples of the influence of environmental factors on its strategic plans.

“From the off we decided to aim for the BREEAM excellent standard at the new engine factory; it was written into the finance for the plant at the beginning of the project,” Wright says.

“China is a big market for JLR. And, while the decision to base a factory there is not wholly about reducing our carbon footprint, the fact that JLR will be able to satisfy the growing demand for its vehicles in south-east Asia from a local facility, helping to drive down emissions from logistics, was a factor.”

Wright acknowledges that JLR’s ambitious plans for growth present big sustainability challenges, but he is confident that the company can be both economically and environmentally successful. “We want to grow and we have to manage that growth so that it is sustainable. That’s why our corporate strategy locks together growth and sustainability.”

Waste: Tying up loose ends

Most of JLR’s scrap metal, wooden packaging, cardboard and plastic is recycled. The hard and soft plastics that protect critical components, for example, are recycled, with the revenue given to Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Disposing of some materials, such as the rubber strings that aid the fitting of door seals, has proven to be more problematic, however.

Up to 35 tonnes of the strings, known as “laces”, were being discarded as general waste each year. That was until Lucy Walkerdine, who works in the “trim and final” facility at Lode Lane, noticed that the material was similar to that used for the pencil cases her daughters had received when they opened their Co-op bank accounts. She contacted the company making the pencil cases – Worcester-based Remarkable – and has worked with it to produce matting, comprising 50% tyre and 50% “lace” material.

The plan is to use the material for covers of notebooks made from recycled paper. “The ‘laces’ were one of the last waste streams going to landfill from trim and final,” reports Joe McNamara, lean manufacturing manager at Lode Lane. “This solution will bring us closer to zero waste to landfill.”

Interview: Mike Wright

Jaguar Land Rover executive director Mike Wright has responsibility for sustainability at board level. His remit covers the environmental impacts from the firm’s manufacturing facilities and its products, as well as the company’s work with schools and universities, and its global carbon-offsetting programme.

Wright says the development of JLR’s sustainability strategy has been organic rather than driven by external pressures, such as regulation. “If you’re a global business and you’re competing against other great brands, you need to be at least competitive, but ideally leading the sustainability agenda,” he explains. “Increasingly stakeholders, including our employees, want to know we are taking these issues seriously.”

He believes that policymakers need only outline the broad environmental agenda that business should follow together with a clear set of targets, and leave it to companies to develop the technical solutions. “A lot of policy is well intended, but often sends the wrong signals,” he says, citing fiscal support in the UK for electric vehicles (EVs) as an example.

“The challenge for the automotive industry is to develop an alternative to the combustion engine. The answer might be EVs, and JLR is investing heavily in hybrid and EV technology, but it might not. The government should set stretching targets for the industry to reduce emissions and leave it to develop an alternative powertrain rather than incentivising just one technology,” Wright argues.

He explains that JLR embraces horizon scanning, looking ahead to 2020–25. He highlights the following three main environmental challenges facing JLR in the years ahead:

  1. Balancing growth and sustainability – “Our growth plans will involve the development of new infrastructure. Those facilities will still be around in 30–40 years so we need to ensure they are built to the highest standards.”
  2. Regulatory complexity – “Auto products are highly regulated. But JLR generates 85% of its revenue outside the UK. The regulations in the US differ from those in the EU, while China will have its own, which will differ again. JLR needs to manage the complexity of the regulation across all its markets.”
  3. Putting something back – “JLR is an engineering firm and engineers will be key crucial to society to be able to meet the requirements of the future. We have 150 research engineers based at the University of Warwick working alongside academics on future technologies. We want to find smarter ways of doing things.”

Mike Wright is executive director at Jaguar Land Rover.


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