In Part 3 of The Bigger Picture Series, Sebastian Copeland, investigates the ways in which Audi is closing the water loop in its production facilities.

3 May, 2024

Think of automotive manufacturing and the use of large quantities of water doesn’t necessarily spring to mind. But water plays an important role across a number of areas within the manufacturing process and Audi is going to great lengths not only to conserve the usage of water but to literally close out the water loop by reusing and recycling this precious commodity.

In Part 3 of The Bigger Picture, explorer and photographer Sebastian Copeland visits Audi’s facility in Neckarsulm to see how the brand is utilising the latest technology to recycle water used at the site.

The township of Neckarsulm is named for its location where the Neckar and Sulm rivers meet, and the Audi plant at Neckarsulm sits site right next to the Neckar River. But the fact that water is plentiful in this location is no reason to take it for granted. Here, water plays a vital role cooling the vast army of welding robots that create the exacting welds on vehicle bodies. These futuristic robots run at extremely high temperatures, water is cycled through the operation to keep temperatures at optimum levels. On the roof of the welding facility of the site sit state-of-the-art cooling towers, surrounded by looks like a vast meadow of grasses.

The cooling towers are used, as their name suggests, to cooling the super heated water as it comes up from the welding centre to be reused again and again, while the planted out roof areas acts much like a paddock or meadow, both capturing rain water and also providing an additional habitat to encourage biodiversity at the site.

Audi Neckarsulm also works extensively with the local water purification facility which is able to take waste water from areas such as the paint facility on site and treat the water to remove chemicals and impurities to allow it to be used again. Literally cleaning the water and returning it to Audi for reuse.

As this process is ramped up, more and more grey water from the local water purification plant will be used at the Audi site rather than taking water from the river, effectively closing the water loop and  and creating a circular process. Obviously some water is lost both during production and through evaporation, but that amount, around 30 percent, can also be augmented by using grey water that has been cleaned for reuse.

It’s just another strategy employed by Audi across its sites to ensure a cleaner, sustainable future as part of its Mission:Zero initiative.

Also in the series:

The Bigger Picture - Part 1

The Bigger Picture - Part 2

The Bigger Picture - Part 4