BMW is among a number of automakers harnessing the power of biowaste—not to power its cars, but the factories that build them. It is using Cow poop and chicken droppings.
The Bavarian carmaker’s Rosslyn factory near Pretoria, South Africa, gets about a quarter of its electricity from a nearby biogas plant and has for over two years now. The waste comes from area cattle farms, chicken coops, and the three million residents of greater Tshwane.
In the United States, BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, draws even more of its power from methane gas, piped in from a landfill about 10 miles away. Two on-site turbines generate nearly half of the factory’s energy requirements, reducing its footprint by 92,000 tons of CO2 (and its electric bill by $3.5 million) each year.
The Spartanburg plant is among the 10 greenest on-site power-generation facilities in the United States—ahead of GM’s biogas station in Warren, Michigan, and Volkswagen’s solar park in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The factory also boasts the world’s largest fleet of hydrogen-powered machinery: 350 forklifts, tuggers, and material trains humming around the body shops, paint shops, and assembly halls, all running on hydrogen fuel cells. And the 24,000-square-foot museum next door? It’s juiced by solar power, with enough left over to supply three public EV-charging stations outside.
Measures like these help BMW draw 63 percent of its energy requirements worldwide from renewable sources. The rest of its North American energy requirements draw from hydroelectric and nuclear power, as well as from coal and natural gas. To meet its goal of 100 percent renewable energy, BMW has three years to replace those sources.