The One Tonne Life project has ended and the content on this web page is static and is not updated any more. The project was unique and pioneering, making the conclusions and all information connected to the project just as interesting and up-to-date today as when it was run. Read more about the project and get inspired! (March 2017)

One Tonne Life

Happy New Model Year

It’s true. However strange it may sound, production is currently under way for model year 2013. Product development and production of cars are very complex issues. Not only do the cars have to function properly and offer good value for money, they also have to fit into the model range and enter the market at exactly the right time. That is why we here at Volvo (along with most other manufacturers) have a specific date for the new model year at the factory. We fix a date to avoid mixing together components and details that do not belong together. In Volvo’s case the model year changes in week 20. For car enthusiasts with a particular interest in the environment, there are several points of interest. Not least that Volvo has 19 new variants classified as environmentally optimised or “green” cars as per the table below.

What is entirely new is the T4F engine in the larger cars. The T4F is the synthesis of several years of product development and it is a powerful yet energy-efficient ethanol engine. What is more, DRIVe is back in the V70 and S80. Now with a start-stop function. Naturally the C30 Electric is also included this model year, with series production starting this summer.

All these models give the car owner 5 years of road tax exemption. What is more, some municipalities offer free parking for green cars. Buyers have to check this with their local authorities.

Finally I would like to mention that Volvo’s City Safety system is now standard on all S60, V60, V70, S70, XC60 and XC70 models. Naturally also on the green versions of these cars. City Safety is a system that monitors vehicles ahead in traffic queues and automatically brakes if the driver fails to do so. Read more about the new models on Volvo’s website:

Next week I will write about how things went at the first official drive in the V60 plug-in hybrid in Berlin at Michelin Bibendum.

David Weiner, Volvo

Just how good are electric cars from the climate viewpoint?

Use of the electric car, allied to the fact that the family are avoiding air travel, has helped cut transport-related emissions by a total of 93 % compared with before project start. The reason for this big decrease is that the car runs on renewable electricity, so emissions are very low. However, if everyone was to buy an electric car, would it be reasonable to claim that all the electric cars were running on hydropower?

Some people say that if we increase electricity consumption a little in Sweden, that will require us to buy in a little more coal-powered electricity from Denmark. Even if Sweden exports electricity, the effect will be the same. If we use more electricity and export less, this would mean that the Danes would have to rely more on coal-fired power stations instead of hydropower that they could otherwise have purchased from Sweden. This means that coal is a marginal power source. And if you recharge your electric car with coal power, from the climate viewpoint it is pretty much the same as running a petrol car.

There are several things that are rather tricky in this perspective. One is that the EU has a trading system for emissions rights whereby the permitted level of emissions from the electricity and industrial sectors in the EU is a political decision. Therefore, if we use a little more electricity in Sweden, this does not mean that emissions increase but that someone else in the EU will either have to reduce their electricity consumption or invest in coal-less power production. This means that net emissions from the electric car will in practice be zero, although the emissions rights will be somewhat more expensive in the EU. However, one might counter that we can also let petrol-powered cars be part of the EU’s trading system, in which case the contribution from yet another petrol car would in practice also be zero.

A trading system is a control mechanism for ensuring that emissions reductions take place where they are cheapest to implement. However, it is nonetheless important to be able to evaluate technologies in advance. So the question returns to whether or not electric cars are better than petrol cars bearing in mind today’s electricity production. It is true that if we increase electricity consumption in Sweden by a little, then a little more coal power will be used this year. But an electric car has a life-span of around ten to fifteen years. Will coal remain a marginal power source throughout that time? What is more, if we were to go for electric cars in Sweden, new power stations would have to be built. What will be decisive is which new energy sources will be driven by the introduction of electric cars. Additional coal power, or renewable energy sources? This issue will be decided not so much by electric car customers but more by political decisions about which control mechanisms there are for the electricity generating sector.

The climate impact of electric cars therefore cannot be evaluated solely on the basis of the car, but must instead be viewed in a larger context. If a political decision is taken not to redirect electricity production, the electric car will not be a good climate alternative. But if resources are invested in redirecting power production, electric cars may well become a good solution for the future transport system.

Another two points to make about electric cars. One is that we would actually only need about 6 % more electricity production in Sweden to replace all passenger cars with electric cars. The second is production of the cars themselves. We estimate that the Lindell family’s car generates 100 kg CO2/person per year, which in itself is not a whole lot. But that figure can be a lot less if the electricity generating system were changed. In other words in a future in which power for electric cars is only a minor climate-related problem, actual manufacture of the cars will also only be a minor climate-related problem.

Fredrik Hedenus, Chalmers

Eco-labelling for cars: is there such a thing?

Can a car have an eco-label? How do I wash my car in an environmentally responsible way? Are there any environmentally certified tyres?

These are examples of questions that we receive every day. The fact is that eco-labels make things a little simpler when the time comes for customers to do their shopping. For example, Sweden’s “Svanen” is an eco-label that can be found on many products – everything from fuel (the gas used to propel vehicles) and newsprint to tyres, car washes and so on. You can find out more from There you can read, for instance, that eco-labelled car washes actually exist. This means they meet tough demands concerning water consumption and that the chemicals used have the least possible negative impact on the environment. What is more, these demands also include a quality requirement. It is a poor choice from the environmental viewpoint if you have to wash your car twice, so by choosing an eco-labelled car wash you get both a cleaner car and a cleaner conscience.

When it comes to tyres, HA oils are forbidden in all tyres as of about a year ago. What is more, there is an eco-label for tyres too. Thus far only one tyre model has received this eco-label but more are on the way. For tyres it is important to bear in mind that tread depth must be sufficient, and for a tyre to function safely Volvo recommends a minimum of 3 mm. There are also many tyre models with low rolling resistance; this helps cut fuel consumption without lengthening the stopping distance. Remember also to frequently check tyre pressures. Incorrect tyre inflation has more of an impact on fuel consumption than you might believe. What is more, there is an eco-pressure level which is somewhat higher than the standard tyre inflation and which helps cut fuel consumption still further.

Finally, is there an eco-label for the car as a whole? The answer is both yes and no. There is no eco-label for the entire car, but several of Volvo’s models have interiors that have been certified and approved by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association. It is not an eco-label in the traditional sense of the term, but it is an excellent guideline for good in-car air quality. This requires much more than just a good air filter in the ventilation system – a whole range of things have been done to these cars to achieve this high interior standard, including:

• IAQS – (Interior Air Quality System) fitted as standard on all new Volvo models since 2003. This system automatically shuts off incoming air and activates the recirculation system when it registers high levels of carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrogen oxide in the incoming air. The air inside the car is thus actually cleaner than the air outside.
• The passenger compartment filter prevents particles and pollen from entering the car.
• Interior materials are tested for contact allergies. These materials meet the same strict requirements as for jewellery with regard to nickel seepage, among other things.
• Plastics are chosen that release as little vapour as possible.
• The cabin fan starts automatically when the car is unlocked so as to ventilate as much of the shut-in air as possible when the outside temperature is 10 degrees or more.
• Finally, all materials and designs are chosen to ensure that the car is as easy to clean as possible. This helps minimise the amount of dust inside the passenger compartment.

Volvo is the only car manufacturer to have this environmental declaration system, and it is used on all the company’s more recent models.

In addition, there is of course the state-legislated definition of environmentally optimised or “green” cars but this is not an eco-label as such but rather a regulation that exempts such cars from road tax for five years. Anyone wanting to find out more about this can visit the Swedish Tax Authority’s website and look at the link about “green” cars

David Weiner, Volvo

Webisode #9 “The Robinson Phase”

From forest to finished house – part 3: the house factory

In 1960 Derome supplemented its sawmill business with building material sales. Today the company supplies construction materials and prefabricated building components as well as complete houses under the A-hus and Varbergshus brands. The A-hus brand covers prefabricated houses that can be picked straight from the catalogue, with the focus on design. In addition to sales in Sweden, these houses are also exported to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Denmark.

The factory in which they are built is located at the very same site where the company was founded. Production is highly rationalised. A CAD system generates core data files with information for the production line, which uses the drawings to produce the houses. Every year, A-hus builds and sells 350 houses, that is to say about one a day. The Lindell family went to have a look at the house factory.

The family examine the production line together with Petra Cederhed of A-hus (on the right)…

…and Peter Mossbrant, President of A-hus (on the left).

Christian Axelsson of A-hus in discussion with Alicja about the plastic sheeting that serves as the “climate shell” of the One Tonne Life house.

Cross-section of a One Tonne Life wall, with the plastic sheeting inserted in two layers.

Hannah inspects the growth rings in the timber used for the facade.

The house walls are insulated.

Jonathan got to apply insulation strips to a window. He managed it well …

…as did Nils.

When the time came to try the nail gun, Jonathan focused on looking as cool as possible …

…while Hannah went all-out for enthusiasm …

…but wasn’t quite ready for the recoil!

Hannah shows the nails used in the nail gun.

Hannah watches as a window receives its final insulation treatment. This is the last step before …

…the module is ready.

What is One Tonne Life?

Is it possible to live carbon neutral today?

Every Swede contributes to the greenhouse effect with six to eight tonnes of CO2 per year.

With energy-smart housing, electric cars and clean energy, we could go on living almost as usual. Couldn't we? What does it really take for a family to live carbon neutral?