sonicFor the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, the idea of being more environmentally friendly isn’t just about the car’s EPAestimated 40 mpg on the highway.

The subcompact features a unique water-based “three-wet” paint process applied in a new eco-friendly paint shop with less environmental impact.

The process, in which General Motors is the first automaker to use in the US, eliminates the need for a primer bake oven, normally used between the primer and color-coating layers. The Orion Assembly Center (where the Sonic is built) allows three layers of paint to be applied one after another while still wet before a single trip though the oven.

This process reduces the paint shop footprint by 10 percent, providing additional floor space and reducing the energy needed to heat and cool these areas, notes GM officials.

No worries though, the “three wet” paint process doesn’t affect the car’s glossy sheen and durability long term.

“Cutting our greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our energy consumption were key to implementing our water-based ‘three-wet’ paint process,” said Mauricio Pincheira, paint manager at Orion. “We want to provide a durable paint that impresses our first-time Sonic customers and maintain the tough environmental standards we have across the company.” Orion’s new paint shop was engineered to minimize energy use while reducing solvent emissions. By using the three-wet process, a thin film pretreatment, and exceptionally lean design methods, Orion’s paint shop uses 50 percent less process energy per vehicle than the shop it replaced. It is also heated by natural and landfill gas, which results in less emissions than coal-fired boilers.

When full shift production is achieved, Orion’s new paint shop will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 80,000 metric tons per year – equivalent to the annual emissions from 14,000 vehicles – and solvent emissions by about 108,000 pounds of solvent per year.

These paint process improvements also trimmed the manufacturing costs by about $40 per vehicle, making the Sonic a little friendlier on the pocket book as well considering every little bit helps.

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