Fancy car from scrap functioning car recycling.

Fancy car from scrap functioning car recycling.

Those in the automotive industry who have so far been talking about "recycling was referring in some circumstances to seat covers made from recycled PET bottles. Until recently, not much more could be expected from the major automakers when it came to recycling. But vehicle manufacturers who neglect the issue of sustainability these days are failing their clientele. According to a recent study by the consulting firm Capgemini, sustainability is an important aspect for 69 percent of those surveyed when buying a vehicle – or not. 1.500 current or former owners of cars made by Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Tesla or VW. Participants came from Germany, Great Britain and the USA. A good third (34 percent) of the participants would even switch from the car brand they trust to another brand for this purpose – if it were more sustainable.

IAA discussion: mobility of the future – green and flexible

Design studio made from recycled materials

As a "commitment was how BWM CEO Oliver Zipse described the i Vision Circular design study. The four-door car consists of almost 100 percent secondary materials and renewable raw materials. Moreover, it can be recycled 100 percent. The body of the four-door car is made of recycled aluminum – one of the simpler "exercises, explains Roberto Rossetti. He is responsible for the life cycle of vehicles at BMW in the development department. In the case of aluminum alloys, for example, a very high proportion of secondary raw materials is already being achieved, i.E. Aluminum that is recovered from discarded material.

Metalworking instead of paint

To ensure that this remains the case in further recycling runs, the aluminum sheet of the i Vision Circular currently being presented at the IAA Mobility is not painted, but only anodized in a delicate bronze shade. At the rear, heat-treated steel provides a slight blue glow. To make recycling even easier, even the manufacturer's logo is lasered into the metal instead of being placed on top of it.

Secondary raw materials have the right of way

The design study from Munich sets the direction in which the company plans to move in the coming years. A key catchword here is: secondary first Wherever possible, the secondary raw material ratio in the components should be maximized, says Roberto Rossetti. That means recycled plastics should be used first. In addition, he said, the goal at BWM is to design, develop and then produce the vehicles in such a way that they are both easily and economically recyclable.

Thinking about dismantling

To this end, the company wants to dispense with mixed materials and assemble more complex components from individual parts in such a way that they can be easily disassembled again. With the i Vision Circular, the engineers were able to try out a number of things in this direction, such as new joining technologies for the interior construction of the seats. These make it easier to disassemble the components of the car when it has done its service and should be recycled.

Car study from waste

Using as much recycled material as possible to build a car is an idea that others had before BMW. Since last fall, a sleek, yellow two-seater has been driving around the grounds of Eindhoven University of Technology. Car – designed. Built by students at the TU. It is made of 70 percent recycled waste. "The most important part, the chassis, is made of a sandwich material that we developed together with several companies", explains student Louise de Laat of the Luca team. The sandwich panels are made up of three layers. The two outer ones are made of flax fibers. Made from recycled plastic waste from the ocean. And the middle layer is a honeycomb structure made from recycled PET bottles.

The students also used recycled plastic for the bodywork. Instead of paint, the whole thing is covered with a yellow film that can be removed without leaving any residue if you want to use the plastic again.

A long way to the production car

Luca drives – but anything but comfortably. It's still a long way to go before we have a production car suitable for the road. But the students were more interested in making a statement when they presented the car just under a year ago. They want to show the automotive industry that it's possible to produce a vehicle very efficiently from waste.

No data on car recycling

Leaving the BMW design study aside, it seems that many automakers are still struggling with the circular economy principle at the moment. Philipp Sommer, an expert on recycling management at Deutsche Umwelthilfe, criticizes the fact that it's not easy to find out how far manufacturers actually go and how much recycled material they use. Because there are no real statistics on this, because the manufacturers do not have to disclose this data. "Only when individual show products contain a particularly large amount of recycled plastic or other recycled materials do manufacturers disclose such figures. But usually not for their entire fleet. And that's why such figures are not available."

BMW, at least, states that its vehicles are currently already made of an average of just under 30 percent recycled and reused materials. By 2030, the company wants to increase this significantly: not to 100 percent as in the design study, but at least to 50 percent.

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