Volvo looks to transition to fossil-free steel as part of its green efforts

Shane McGlaun - Jun 17, 2021, 7:06am CDT
Volvo looks to transition to fossil-free steel as part of its green efforts

Volvo confirmed in March that it was committed to producing only electric vehicles by 2030 and to move to an online-only sales strategy in the same timeframe. The automaker is now doubling down on going green with the announcement that it is the first automaker to explore fossil-free steel with a Swedish steel manufacturer called SSAB. Volvo is the first automaker to work with SSAB and its HYBRIT initiative.

HYBRIT is the steel industry’s most advanced project in fossil-free steel development. That project was started by SSAB, iron ore producer LKAB, and an energy company called Vattenfall. The goal of the project is to replace coking coal that’s traditionally used in iron ore-based steelmaking. Rather than using coal, the project aims to use fossil-free electricity and hydrogen.

The project is expected to result in the first steelmaking process with virtually no carbon footprint. Volvo will become the first automaker to secure SSAB steel that’s made using the hydrogen-reduced iron created at the HYBRIT pilot plant in Lulea, Sweden. Before Volvo puts the steel into production, it says it will be used for testing purposes and potentially in a concept car.

SSAB currently plans to supply the steel market with fossil-free products starting in 2026. In that year, the new steel will be available at a commercial scale, and Volvo wants to be the first to use the steel in production cars. Using the new steel fits in with Volvo’s carbon footprint reduction plans.

Globally, steel production is reportedly responsible for about seven percent of all global direct carbon emissions. The industry is currently dominated by iron ore-based steelmaking technology that uses blast furnaces relying on coking coal. Volvo maintains a goal of reducing CO2 emissions related to steel and iron production for its vehicles to around 35 percent for traditional vehicles and 20 percent for electric vehicles. That commitment includes reducing emissions created when producing components for the vehicles. Volvo plans to be a climate-neutral company by 2040.

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