The GreenTech business of Continental Engineering Services leverages its automotive know-how for environmental technology. Going beyond the automotive industry, GreenTech develops intelligent solutions for greater sustainability and for more efficient use of natural resources. These showcased examples highlight the diverse range of engineering projects undertaken by the GreenTech team.
Environmental technology will make a major contribution to sustainability. In view of the growing population, and the challenges posed by climate change, many areas of daily life and the economy are facing profound changes. Environmental technology presents comprehensive solutions for resource preservation, enhanced efficiency, and environmental protection. For instance, it can reduce the reliance on pesticides in agriculture. Moreover, it can optimize the management of the increasingly scarce resource of drinking water.
GreenTech develops new technical solutions for a wide range of environmental technologies that are based on proven, robust automotive technology, and adapts it for other areas of application. This transfer happens as part of a practical approach that fosters the development of new and innovative products and solutions tailored to environmental applications. The spectrum ranges from proof-of-concept to very concrete projects that are already in the patent phase. And these activities will be successively expanded in the future, for example in areas such as circular economy, energy efficiency and mobility and transport. The basic idea is to unlock the technical capabilities of automotive hardware and software, including artificial intelligence (AI), for new applications.
The company’s infrastructure also supports circularity: At the Continental Automotive electronics plant in Karben, Hesse, used electronic IT equipment from Continental AG’s business areas – from laptops to network switches – is refurbished and given a new lease of life as “refurbished devices”.
Dealing with the liquid gold
Automotive technology is an exceptional trigger for “out-of-the-box” thinking: Water management, for example, is an urgent task because the change in precipitation amounts (dry periods alternating with heavy rainfall, which means rapidly draining water) makes any waste of water critical. A crucial problem is that only part of the drinking water that is fed into a supply network reaches households. This is often caused by dilapidated pipeline networks. There are regions where this permanent loss amounts to a good third of the water.
Together with a municipality, GreenTech is already working on a technical solution for data collection of water flows.
This measurement technique – a combination of software and electronics – is currently being developed as a product and adapted to customer requirements. The results should be used to detect and rehabilitate leaking pipes in a timely manner.
Weed management – what you can learn from dandelions
A look back shows that improvements in efficiency in agriculture have always been associated with higher mechanization. In order to ensure that the world’s population will continue to be fed in the future, it is now necessary to make further progress through new solutions and to reduce the impact on the material and water cycle. In the EU, for example, the “Farm to Fork” target is to reduce the use of herbicides by 50 % by 2030 (1). This will not succeed without innovation.
The biggest challenge in not using herbicides is weed management of young crops, which can quickly become overgrown by other plants. So far, ecological weed management has been based primarily on the use of mechanical hoeing systems, which, however, are difficult to use in row crops and close to emerging plants.
GreenTech has the potential to change that: An innovative attachment for tractors that is currently being tested detects weeds and eliminates weeds with high precision on an ecological basis. The system is based on automotive sensor technology, complex software and the use of artificial intelligence (AI). The algorithms for controlling the system are trained on different “good plants” and eliminate any weeds with their ability to distinguish the plants. This ecological form of weed control uses experience and technologies from automotive technology, but above all software know-how as the basis for AI models. This development was advanced in just 1.5 years and very quickly led to the establishment of a functional model. When you consider that weed management is one of the major challenges in agriculture, the potential of this GreenTech solution becomes clear (2).
(1) European Commission: From farm to fork. (“Vom Hof auf den Tisch“) –
https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/from-farm-to-fork/ – accessed on 30 May, 2023
(2) Fraunhofer Institut für Molekularbiologie und angewandte Ökologie (IME), Münster –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZuPPnLY3qg (2:14 Min) – accessed on 30 May, 2023