Adolfsson says. “Previously much of the focus has been on the properties of steel, such as making it stronger and lighter. Now the focus is shifting to the lifecycle of steel; lowering the emissions throughout the entire life of the material, including production, is not negotiable. If quality was the base factor in the past, sustainability will be the base factor in the future.”
Demand for more sustainable materials and production
Automotive companies are under extreme pressure from customers, investors and governments to become more sustainable. More sustainable vehicles are also a huge business opportunity: global electric car sales reached 3.2 million in 2020, a 400 percent increase in five years.
Until now, the main sustainability focus on vehicles has been on their operation. For decades, automobiles have become more efficient, yet even a vehicle that operates with no greenhouse gas emissions – such as an electric car charged with renewable energy – is no longer good enough.
“The future trend is to develop more sustainable solutions for materials and how cars are made,” says Adolfsson. “There are methods to produce more sustainable steel such as carbon capture, reuse and storage, or scrap-based steel production. However, these are not enough to reach the Paris Agreement commitments.”
Fossil-free steel is crucial to the automotive industry’s success
On average, 900 kilograms of steel are used per vehicle, so more sustainable steel is critical for the entire industry. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the CO2 intensity of crude steel needs to fall 2.5 percent annually in order to meet their Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS). Energy efficiency improvements are inadequate, and the IEA is instead placing their hopes on significant innovations in production methods.
Fossil-free steel is one of these major innovations. SSAB has partnered with the iron ore producer LKAB and the energy company Vattenfall to form HYBRIT. HYBRIT® technology will replace coking coal, which is traditionally used in ore-based steelmaking, with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen.