Purpose This study aims to reduce carbon emissions and costs in an automobile production plant by improving the operational management efficiency of a serial assembly line assisted by a feeding electric tow vehicle (ETV). Design/methodology/approach A multi-objective function is formulated to minimize the energy consumption of the ETV from which emissions and costs are measured. First, a mixed-integer linear programming model is used to solve the feeding problem for different sizes of the assembly line. Second, a bi-objective optimization (HBOO) model is used to simultaneously minimize the most eco-efficient objectives: the number of completed runs (tours) by the ETV along the assembly line, and the number of visits (stops) made by the ETV to deliver kits of components to workstations. Findings The most eco-efficient strategy is always the bi-objective optimal solution regardless of the size of the assembly line, whereas, for single objectives, the optimization strategy differs depending on the size of the assembly line. Research limitations/implications Instances of the problem are randomly generated to reproduce real conditions of a particular automotive factory according to a previous case study. The optimization procedure allows managers to assess real scenarios improving the assembly line eco-efficiency. These results promote the implementation of automated control of feeding processes in green manufacturing. Originality/value The HBOO-model assesses the assembly line performance with a view to reducing the environmental impact effectively and contributes to reducing the existent gap in the literature. The optimization results define key strategies for manufacturing industries eager to integrate battery-operated motors or to address inefficient traffic of automated transport to curb the carbon footprint.