German car manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) continue to pioneer international automotive transport by becoming the first automaker to transport the majority of its new vehicles overseas using low emission liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships.

By 2023 the group is expecting to see four more LNG-powered ships with dual-fuel engines added to its current fleet of two LNG car carriers, which entered service in 2020. Six of the nine car carriers crossing the North Atlantic for VW are to be powered by LNG.

As global companies move further towards the ubiquitous use of LNG, the closer they are to reaching their goals for carbon emission reduction. As one of the first car manufacturers to subscribe to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement that aim to limited global warming to significantly less than two degrees by 2050, the use of LNG will enable VW to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in its fleet by up to 25% (tank-to-wake).

Simon Motter, Head of Group Logistics, Volkswagen, said that this is “in line with the Group’s commitment to e-mobility and climate-neutral production, the LNG fleet used by Logistics represents a major contribution to making Volkswagen net carbon neutral by 2050.”

In line with the Paris Climate Agreement and their own personal goals, the VW Group has also committed to e-mobility and the sustainable production and use of new electric vehicles, adhering to the principle of focusing on not producing CO2 emissions in the first place and then of reducing emissions as far as possible.

Models of the new LNG ships for the Volkswagen Group’s ocean-going fleet

Models of the new LNG ships for the Volkswagen Group’s ocean-going fleet

Following the switching of all rail transport with Deutsche Bahn to green electricity, the Group has caused an 85% reduction in CO2 emissions through its two biofuel-powered car carriers that operate along coastal routes in Europe.

Motter continued, “With these four additional LNG ships, Group Logistics is continuing its commitment to climate protection and pursuing the strategy of low-emission sea transport that was decided in 2016.”

“The new ships will also permit the use of non-fossil fuels in the future, thus reducing CO2 emissions even further.”

“Our aim is to make all our transport operations – by water, road and rail – environmentally friendly, clearly demonstrating the Volkswagen Group’s pioneering role in climate-friendly logistics.”

The ships are being built in China and have a capacity of around 7,000 car equivalent units (CEU), with long-term agreements being signed with shipowners Wallenius Marine and SFL Corporation for the use of the four new car carriers on the North Atlantic route.

Powered by two-stroke 13,300 kT dual-fuel engines from MAN Energy Solutions, the high-pressure technology involved in construction of the engines results in almost no methane slip and are capable of allowing the vessels to travel at speeds of 15 to 16 knots (28 to 30 km/h) in eco-mode.

In addition to significantly reducing CO2 emissions, harmful nitrogen oxide emissions are also reduced by up to 30%, soot particles by up to 60% and sulfur oxides are almost completely eliminated.

Due to the dual-fuel technology, the car carriers are also able to be run on biogas, e-gas, and biodiesel with no modification necessary.

Retrofitting with battery cells will also be possible for two of the new ships, with all four LNG ships being equipped with shore power connections to ensure all local emissions in ports providing this facility can be eliminated.

Shipping 2.8 million new cars annually, the transition to LNG will help VW Group achieve significant progress relating to its climate goals.