Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has announced its joint venture with steelmaker SSAB, in a collaboration that will explore the use of fossil-free steel in vehicle construction.
Volvo Cars wants to be climate-neutral by 2040, and by targeting steel they hope to make significant strides in this direction. The green version of the metal could be used in a pilot car as early as 2025.
Steel production currently contributes around 8% of global CO2 emissions, while in the automotive industry specifically, steel and iron production contribute to around 35% of global emissions in a typical car. This figure dips to 20% in an electric vehicle (EV).
While the metal has historically proven difficult to decarbonise it is not impossible, and projects are beginning to harness novel technologies to make this concept a reality. In particular, green hydrogen is paving the way for the alternative, and it is through replacing coal with this cleaner process that SSAB will make its steel.
In the steelmakers’ method, hydrogen produced from electrolysis will be used to fuel the steelmaking process (as opposed to coking coal). In this greener alternative, renewable energy is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, producing water vapour instead of carbon dioxide. A pilot plant in Luleå, Sweden is in the process of producing this green steel and SSAB has said it hopes to bring the metal to commercial scale by 2026.
After receiving the green steel, Volvo will reportedly perform its own tests to determine the material’s strength and heat resistance.
The pilot plant was established as part of the HYBRIT initiative, a joint venture alongside Swedish utility Vattenfall and mining company LKAB. This initiative was set up with the aim of decarbonising Sweden’s steel and iron industries, focused on investments in both novel technologies and infrastructure to aid the transition to a cleaner production process.
The country is expected to be the first in the world to successfully produce green alternatives to these metals. If achieved, the move could reduce Sweden’s overall emissions by as much as 10%.