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The pollution-busting pavements that help Seat cut environmental impact

The pollution-busting pavements that help Seat cut environmental impact
SEAT has reduced the environmental impact of its Martorell factory by 34% since 2010, including cutting 2,400 tonnes in CO2 emissions and installing pollution-killing pavements.

On World Environment Day, just some of the major initiatives taken by the company include innovations on pavements, in chimneys and through water.

Among a raft of environmentally friendly developments, even the pavements at the SEAT Technical Centre reduce pollution. The photocatalytic walkway is made with cement slabs applied with titanium dioxide. When it comes into contact with pollutants, light and oxygen at the same time, it triggers a chemical reaction that decomposes the pollutants in the air, turning them into nitrates that dissolve with water. So, it decontaminates, cleans itself and kills bacteria.

SEAT currently has 4,000 square metres of photocatalytic pavement, which reduces air pollution by 40%. The company is considering its installation on a further 26,000 square metres of walkways within the entire business complex in Martorell.

“This project is framed in the Ecomotive Factory initiative and aims to improve air quality and reduce pollution by 40%. There is an extremely high potential for reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, as the first phase alone at the Technical Centre enables reducing 0.8 tonnes annually. If it were implemented in the rest of the factory the potential would amount to 5.2 tonnes per year,” explains SEAT Engineering Processes Manager Dr. Joan Carles Casas.

SEAT has achieved an annual saving of 11.7 GWh (gigawatt hours) in natural gas consumption, equivalent to the needs of about 2,400 Spanish households every year. This is due to a new installation that recovers the energy emitted by the bodywork drying ovens in one of the workshops. The hot air rising up the chimneys heats a water circuit, which is later used in the car body paint processes.

Through this initiative, 2,400 tonnes of CO2 are prevented from entering the atmosphere annually, the equivalent of 2,200 flights from Madrid to New York.

The paint workshop uses more than half of the factory's entire water consumption. Chassis surface treatments, wash booths and final painting booth are facilities that require a lot of water, but this workshop is precisely where efforts are being made to save this resource. When cars are spray painted, a small amount is lost in the process and falls into a treatment vat. “The necessary chemical products are added here to separate the paint from the water, and once cleaned, it is returned to the process in a completely closed circuit”, explains Dr. Casas.

The rain test is another area that is water-intensive and verifies the water-tightness of all vehicles by spraying them with more than 150 litres of water per square metre for six minutes. This process uses a closed circuit: “All the water is collected and sent through a treatment circuit prior to returning it to the process,” explains Dr. Casas.

SEAT al Sol is the biggest solar plant in the automotive industry in Europe: it features a total of 53,000 panels on the roofs of the factory workshops and covered car parks for export vehicles, covering an area of 276,000 m2, the equivalent of 40 football fields, and generates more than 17 million kWh annually with no polluting emissions. “This prevents the emission of 4,250 tonnes of CO2 annually, the same amount which is absorbed by around 700,000 trees,” explains Dr. Casas.

Company employees contributed to creating a botanical garden in Martorell's Can Casas park by planting 80 trees of different native species, as well a space for the protection of the Hyla Meridionalis frog. Each tree is tagged with a QR code which can be scanned by a mobile phone to obtain information about each species.

On a related topic, SEAT has also replaced conventional light bulbs with high efficiency LED bulbs in the interior and exterior of its production centres. This is an annual energy reduction equivalent to the consumption of 1,000 households.

In figures…

Reduction of environmental impact 2010-2018: 34%

In energy: 22%
In water: 31%
In CO2: 63%
In waste: 34%
In solvents: 22%