Up to 4,000 liters of water are used to manufacture one car; Ecolab seeks to reduce this

Best-in-class car manufacturing companies use top technology that helps them save up to 87 million liters of water in four months.

March 24, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico. March 20th 2019. — One of the industries that consumes the most water and one of the most concerned about saving this natural resource, is the automotive industry. Have you ever wondered in what parts of the car manufacturing process does water play a critical role and how much of it is used?

The manufacture of a car is divided into nine stages that vary according to each automotive brand. On average, 4,000 liters of water are used throughout all stages of production. The car sector in Mexico consumes about 10 billion liters of water per year in the assembly plants of one State alone.

The manufacture stages are:

• Press: A machine for molding that is fed with rolls of steel and is responsible for cutting, drilling and shaping the steel according to the piece to be manufactured.

• Assembly: Manually, automatically or semi-automatically the body of the car is assembled and the parts are welded.

• Painting: Divided into two parts, the part that protects the corrosion and the second is the one that gives the final finish to the car.

• Installation of the motor: the motor is placed into the chasis of the vehicle and is coupled with previously installed systems such as exhaust pipe, transmission, steering and rear axle, among others.

• Assembly: The doors of the car are removed (to prevent them from getting in the way) and interior and exterior elements such as seats, windows, mirrors, packaging, seat belts, tires, headlights, fenders, etc. installed.

• Revision: In this phase, the cars are inspected and subjected to a series of track tests and rain test.

The processes of painting and proof of rain are two of those that consume the most water. In the process of painting there is a process called cataphoresis, where the body is submerged and subjected to electrical tension which attracts the paint particles, creating a layer that protects against corrosion. The cataphoresis is composed of deionized water in 80 - 90% and 10 - 20% of the paint solids to then make a series of washes in which it is rinsed to remove solids or paint residues. This process can use up to 60,000 liters of water.

In the next part of the painting process, the paint is applied to the vehicle. A small amount of paint falls into a pool where chemical products are separated from the water and prepared for reuse. The painting plant is isolated and  injected with air to maintain an invariable climate, with constant humidity so that foreign particles that could create dirt or sparks do not enter the area. Even a small number of particles could cause the paint to fail the necessary quality levels.

An average rain test simulates a storm of 150 liters of water per square meter or approximately 2,500 liters of water that are recycled for subsequent tests. The objective of this test is to demonstrate that the cabin of the car is completely waterproof. A rain test duration varies according to each manufacturer, but on average can last for 10 minutes per car, with thousands of cars tested every day.

Although the automotive industry uses huge amounts of water, there are companies that use technology in their processes for the reuse, treatment and recycling of water. In this regard, Ford Motor Company took a step forward. The company reduced the use of water by more than 10 billion gallons since 2000 and aims to achieve an additional 30 percent reduction per vehicle between 2015 and 2020. Its ambitious long-term goal is: zero use of potable water in manufacturing processes. (https://es-mx.ecolab.com/stories/ford-on-the-road-to-greater-water-savings-with-smart-technology)

To improve efficiency and reduce water consumption at their Chicago assembly plant, Ford partnered with Nalco Water. One of the points to improve was the pre-treatment bath, in which the metal is treated before being painted. To improve efficiency, Ford wanted to constantly control the excessive flow of water when the tanks were refilled.

With 3D TRASAR technology (https://es-mx.ecolab.com/stories/helping-a-customer-use-water-with-care), the real-time visibility of water flow plus alerts instantly regarding issues related to flow ensure water savings and process efficiency during pre-treatment baths. Before, the identification and resolution of problems could take days or even months.

The automotive company saved more than 87 million liters of water in just four months, equivalent to the annual consumption of 79,000 people, which represented a decrease in costs of almost USD 200,000.

About Ecolab
A trusted partner at nearly three million customer locations, Ecolab (ECL) is the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. With annual sales of $15 billion and 49,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world. For more Ecolab news and information, visit https://en-la.ecolab.com/

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