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Volvo Embraces Holistic Approach to Environmentally Sound Cars

While any discussion of "green" automobiles tends to focus on fuel consumption and emissions, the environmental impact of a car's construction and that of the materials it contains from production line to junkyard are equally critical. Volvo has taken a commanding lead in this arena, guaranteeing that all of its new cars are built with 85% recyclable and 95% recoverable materials in a climate neutral manufacturing system. All materials used in the vehicles are selected based on their degree of environmental impact and customers now have access to a Volvo's carbon footprint data by model. The design program Volvo has employed in this endeavor, Clean Inside and Out, represents what the company refers to as a holistic approach to considering a car's environmental impact.

The major points considered by the program include: health resource utilization ecological production consequences and ultimate vehicle disposal. After a European Commission study called on new vehicles to be 85% recyclable or reusable by a deadline of 2015, Volvo achieved and surpassed the goal by 2002. The company has made the use of recycled steel, iron, and aluminum standard operating procedure, while expensive precious metals needed for catalytic convertors are reused in new catalysts.

For the past quarter of a century Volvo has concentrated on utilizing energy sources other than those that are petroleum based. Beginning in 1982 the company used residual heat from refineries for climate control in its Torslanda, Sweden factory before switching to natural gas in 1998. From January 2008 forward, all Volvo manufacturing plants draw upon electricity produced by hydropower. Future projects call for the use of bio-gas and wind-power to maintain the climate neutral condition of the facilities. At the same time, harmful elements have been taken out of the manufacturing process, including lead, cadmium, mercury, and chromium, which are now absent from Volvo's production facilities. This concentration on the removal of toxins extends to the interior of the cars where the materials are hypoallergenic and free of hazardous substances.

Through the Volvo Exchange System, the company collects used parts from dealers, which are in turn remanufactured to the same level of quality as that present in new parts. Further, the Exchange System makes these reconditioned parts, which are guaranteed and approved by Volvo, available for starter motors or for the construction of entire engines. Finally, customers have access to Volvo EPI (Environmental Product Information) for all models, which detail the car's impact on the environment throughout its life cycle from production to ultimate disposal. This highly integrated approach to building and assessing a car's green status puts the Volvo company squarely in the forefront of embracing environmentally sound vehicular use literally from start to finish.

Remember what Joan Baez sang about? Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz? Why wait for someone else? Maybe it's time to buy that car for yourself.



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