In the wake of its diesel emissions scandal, VW is turning to electrification, paying off dealers and customers – in the US, at least – and has generally turned apologizing into an almost monthly event. But its latest effort goes to a different extreme, as the company attempts to green up vehicle shipping. This isn't the first move to make shipping cleaner, but as far as we know, it's one of the first instigated by an automaker.
From 2019 onward, VW will use two liquefied natural gas-powered car carriers from Siem Car Carriers to run vehicles between Europe and North America. The new ships replace a pair of conventionally powered carriers used exclusively by VW for runs across the pond. LNG in vehicles is mostly a fleet thing – livery companies, and what not – but its appeal in the marine industry is impressive. According to VW, LNG-powered ships cut CO2 by up to 25 percent, NOx by up to 30 percent, particulate matters by up to 60 percent, and sulfur oxide by as much as 100 percent. That's very impressive. But what impact will that have on VW's emissions footprint? Well, not a lot.
The two carriers can handle 4,500 vehicles each and the entire Volkswagen Group sold 606,084 vehicles in North America last year. That means the LNG-powered ships would need to make 134 round trips per year to move every VW sold in the US, Canada, and Mexico last year. Considering it takes around ten days to sail from Europe to New York City and subtracting any shore leave for the crew, maintenance/repair time, and weather delays, it'd take the two new LNG ships over seven years to just move one year's worth of Volkswagen Group's US sales.
This is far from an empty gesture on VW's part, but the company still has a long way to go to get back in the world's good graces.