Aluminum is a popular material among automakers due to its strength and weight characteristics, not to mention relative affordability.
The metal is also relatively abundant in the Earth's crust, though not in a pure state. It's typically mined in the form of bauxite and produced in a process that requires a lot of electrical energy.
In the United Arab Emirates, the company EGA is producing aluminum using solar energy generated at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park located just outside of Dubai. As a result, EGA's aluminum has a CO2 rating much lower than other producers, and this is attracting firms looking to reduce CO2 throughout their supplier network.
Aluminum produced with solar energy
One of these firms is BMW Group which has a target of reducing CO2 from its supplier network by 20% from 2019 levels by 2030, and for this reason it plans to source much of its aluminum from EGA. BMW Group has been sourcing aluminum from EGA in small quantities since 2013 but the automaker is substantially increasing the amount, with 47,400 tons already ordered for 2021.
The amount represents about half the annual requirement of BMW Group's light metal foundry located in Landshut, Germany. The foundry produces parts for vehicle bodies, as well as powertrains (both internal-combustion and electric).
BMW Group estimates the use of green energy alone will enable it to meet over 50% of its C02 targets for the supplier network. For instance, the automaker will also source its batteries for electric vehicles from plants that run on green energy, such as Northvolt's plants under construction in Germany and Sweden.