Energy independence has long been a political buzz-phrase in the United States, with each party offering its own version of what that means. But for Germany’s automakers, one of the country’s largest industrial sectors, it’s a present and urgent reality. Following the nuclear disaster in Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to de-commission the country’s nuclear power plants.
According to Bloomberg, Germany has some of the highest energy costs in Europe, largely due to renewable energy surcharges. This has prompted many of Germany’s car builders to build their own power plants to better control energy costs as utility-provided power gets increasingly expensive.
In the companies’ bids to become energy self-sufficient, the auto industry is looking at both renewable and conventional sources for power. BMW is adding four wind turbine towers near its Leipzig plant which builds the X1 crossover and is scheduled to build the i3 electric car. The windmills are expected to provide a fourth of the plant’s total power.
Daimler and Volkswagen are both planning on bringing gas-powered plants online within the next few years to provide more of their own power. Total power consumption of Volkswagen’s combined German manufacturing facilities surpasses that of the entire island nation of Jamaica. VW already produces 63 percent of its own power.
BMW currently gets approximately 28 percent of its power from renewables, with the ultimate goal of 100 percent. However, the inconsistent nature of renewables, and an inadequate energy storage infrastructure is prompting companies to invest in gas-powered plants in the near-term.