Volvo, Union of Concerned Scientists Agree
19 April 2000Volvo, Union of Concerned Scientists Agree On Importance of Environmental Impact in New Car Design
SANTA BARBARA, Calif., April 19 Volvo will be at the "birthplace" of Earth Day on April 22 to showcase new vehicles built to the strict standards of its groundbreaking Environmental Priorities System (EPS). A holistic process designed to minimize a vehicle's environmental impact, the Environmental Priorities System was designed by Volvo with the Swedish Environmental Research Institute and the Swedish Federation of Industries. EPS goes far beyond increasing vehicle efficiency, decreasing weight, or labeling plastic components for future recycling. This sophisticated system quantifies an automobile's total cradle-to-grave environmental load, not just from an emissions standpoint, but also from its use of raw materials and chemicals, and the impacts of its daily operation and disposal at end-of-use. Using EPS early in the design stage of auto production allows the selection of materials and processes that have less negative environmental effect over a vehicle's life cycle. "An automobile has more impact on the environment than just the obvious," says Hans-Olov Olsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars North America. "The very nature of how vehicles are built affects the Earth's natural resources in diverse ways. There's the energy used during the mining and transport of materials needed to build a vehicle, chemical emissions generated during the manufacturing process, tailpipe and evaporative emissions during daily driving, and other wide ranging effects." Taking responsibility for quantifying the full environmental impacts of their products is viewed by environmental groups as an important indicator of a manufacturer's overall environmental commitment. That an auto manufacturer has stepped forward to say its vehicles pollute, and then developed a sophisticated system to quantify the ways in which they do so, is unheard of in the industry. "Manufacturers need to take a holistic approach when assessing their vehicles' impact on the environment," says Roland Hwang, Transportation Program Director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Along with cutting tailpipe pollution, automakers must minimize the environmental toll from the building and disposal of their products." New Volvo models designed and built through the EPS process each come with a certified Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) issued by Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance (LRQA) in London. Each Declaration provides consumer-oriented ratings that cover a wide array of diverse indicators for a vehicle over its life cycle. These include information on regulated emissions, carbon dioxide emissions, evaporation of hydrocarbons, energy and material utilization during manufacturing, labeling of plastics, use of recycled plastics, and much more. Volvo's newest vehicles designed and built through the EPS process, the S40 and S80 sedans and the V40 wagon, will be participating in Earth Day 2000 -- Santa Barbara, located on California's scenic Central Coast. Santa Barbara served as the genesis for the very first Earth Day in 1970 after a massive 1969 coastal oil spill here focused national attention on environmental issues. The festival is being held at various venues throughout the city to celebrate Earth Day's 30th anniversary. In addition to these EPS-designed models, Volvo is showcasing its bi-fuel S70 sedan and V70 wagon at the festival's ride-and-drive. These vehicles, which run on either clean burning natural gas or unleaded gasoline, are sold to fleets in Europe and other countries and have been part of an ongoing demonstration in the U.S. since 1998. Volvo's holistic philosophy has prompted environmental innovation over many years. For instance, Volvo introduced the Lambda Sond sensor and three-way catalytic converter to the auto industry in 1976, a breakthrough system that helped eliminate nearly 95% of hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, and carbon monoxide emissions in vehicles equipped with these devices. Volvo's alternative fuel vehicle development program has included natural gas, alcohol, biodiesel, and electric vehicles, along with the highly-acclaimed turbine hybrid electric Volvo Environmental Concept Vehicle that debuted in 1991. "Alternative fuels and propulsion systems are important to our future," says Bud Laurent, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara, California-based Community Environmental Council, host of the Earth Day 2000 - Santa Barbara festival. "But also important is real environmental commitment at the design and manufacturing stages of auto production, and measuring a vehicle's overall environmental impact in ways that all of us can easily understand. We welcome Volvo as an Earth Day participant that embraces the 'life cycle' philosophy implicit in responsible manufacturing." Volvo's Hans-Olov Olsson points out that the greatest environmental influence any automaker can have is to design and build the most environmentally conscious mass-produced vehicles possible. The commitment to build more environmentally compatible production vehicles, not just concepts and small numbers of vehicles for test markets, is an important part of this. So, too, is continuous improvement in such key areas as emissions and fuel economy, which Volvo is also actively pursuing. "To effect change in the real world, vehicles in the showroom must be built to strict environmental standards, not just those in the research lab," says Olsson. "At Volvo, this is an imperative. We encourage other automakers to do the same."