Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) is investing in solar energy at its manufacturing plant in Prospection in Durban, with the aim of achieving zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the factory by 2050.
TSAM president and CEO Andrew Kirby confirmed that the company has been installing photovoltaic (PV) panels around its plant site since 2016. Three megawatts (MW) of solar power was installed at a cost of R33 million – saving 3 600 tons of CO2 a year.
These initiatives involved generating solar power from PV panels on the roofs of its blanking plant, paint plant, HiAce plant and chassis plant.
‘Fairly stiff targets’
But Kirby said at a recent Toyota State of the Motor Industry event that TSAM has set itself some fairly stiff targets and the aim of its overall road map is to generate 16MW of solar power at its plant by 2025.
“We have a day and night shift and when we combine both, it [solar power] will equate to around 22% of our total consumption in the plant and save us 20 000 tons of CO2 a year.
“We are not only doing this, but this is probably one of the bigger initiatives that we have,” he said.
TSAM reported last month it will be investing R4.28 billion in South Africa between October last year and this year, which will create more than 1 500 jobs – a third of which will be at its Durban plant.
Of this total investment, R928 million will be for environmental investments, production facility upgrades and tooling for new models, including the new Corolla Quest.
Several other locally-based vehicle manufacturers have or are planning to invest in renewable energy.
The Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) confirmed in November that it will this year launch the first phase of a four-year renewable energy plan, with the intention of making its Silverton production plant completely self-sufficient for all its energy needs. FMCSA MD Neale Hill said it will be building a biomass plant on a parcel of land that has been identified for this purpose on the existing Ford site in Silverton, Pretoria.
Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) reported in October last year it was poised to implement a plan to move its manufacturing plant in Uitenhage, plus some of its component suppliers in an adjacent supplier park, off the national electricity grid. Thomas Schaefer, the chairman and managing director of VWSA, said a planned project, involving the investment of R3.5 billion in a biogas facility that uses organic waste to produce electricity, was in its final phase and the Uitenhage plant will be off the electricity grid within the next two to three years.
BMW SA was the local automotive pioneer in renewable energy. In October 2015 it started receiving power from biogas renewable energy company Bio2Watt from its first plant at a Beefcor feedlot in Bronkhorstspruit, which at the time was the first viable commercial biogas project in South Africa.
Toyota’s zero CO2 action plan
Kirby said TSAM’s environmental targets and strategy are largely set by the direction Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) takes globally. TMC has established a set of six key performance indicators with very clear targets to 2050 in terms of the Toyota Global 2050 Environmental Challenge.
In terms of this, the zero CO2 action involves increased electric vehicle sales, lifecycle CO2 reductions at its suppliers, logistics and dealers, and zero CO2 from its manufacturing.
The net positive impact of these actions is to reduce water usage and water risk. It also has a zero waste initiative, including end-of-life vehicle recycling, as well as sustainable plant activities.
Kirby said TSAM will be generating 4.5MW of solar electricity at its plant by March this year, which is a good step in the direction of reducing its overall CO2 emissions.
He said the company is in the process of creating a parking environment and fitting PV panels on the roof space, to further expand the installations that will generate another 884kW, with a further 600kW generated at the Hino plant.
“This is also quite a big milestone for us, because the Hino plant will become carbon negative by March 2020 and we will be able feed electricity back into our mini grid within our site,” he said.
In regard to the target of increasing electric vehicle sales, Kirby said TSAM’s target is for battery electric vehicles to account for 10% of total sales by 2030.
He stressed that the broader category of electric vehicles – which includes hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles – are still more expensive than vehicles with internal combustion engines.
“The markets where there has been a dramatic shift are markets where there is an incentive or penalty,” he said.
Kirby confirmed that Toyota is talking to the Department of Trade and Industry and Competition about how the South African automotive industry can position itself for the future.
“But we have to be honest and [admit] that it is probably going to take a little bit longer than we hoped because of the finances of the government,” he said. “They don’t have additional funds to reduce the cost of these vehicles.”