Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

Adam Hewitt
Auto Solutions T

Maximising profits from ELVs with the Powerhand VRS – The days of hand stripping an ELV are dwindling

Powerhand VRS dealing with an ELV

Different forms of mechanical ELV dismantling have been carried out for many years in different parts of the world. However, only recently with today’s new generation of ELV processing equipment has it been possible to economically remove so many of the high-grade materials; allowing the extraction of copper wiring looms to axle and suspension components and electrical motors to radiators. Engines can be removed in seconds and split, removing alloy gearboxes and heads.


Traditional manual methods of removing these materials can be highly labour intensive and costly, in many cases making them economically unviable. Although a four-tine scrap grab will allow extraction of the engine, much of the added value materials are left behind resulting in the end of life vehicle dismantling companies missing out on great potential profit.

Powerhand, specialist attachment manufacturers based in south west Scotland have invested over seven years in developing, refining, and manufacturing their advanced machine based ELV dismantling system – The Powerhand VRS.

The first step towards what is today’s advanced VRS system was taken back in 2011 when Richard Stewart of D A Autoparts Dumfries approached Douglas Clark, managing director of Powerhand with the task of designing and producing such a machine. “The primary goal of the project was to design a machine which could strip out as much added value from a car while taking as little time as possible” explained Richard.

It took 18 months of initial design and development to produce the first prototype which went to work with Richard Stewart at D A Autoparts late in 2012.

Powerhand and D A Autoparts worked closely to develop and refine the design with changes and improvements made to make VRS the advanced system it is today.

Fast forward six years and the VRS has gone from strength to strength, now operating in over 15 countries worldwide.

 The two-part VRS system, operated off the hydraulics of the base machine, consists of a grapple, mounted on the end of the boom, and clamp arms, mounted where a bulldozer blade would normally be found on many excavators. The VRS can be fitted to most makes of excavator in the 18-22 tonnes category, or any 22+ tonnes wheeled materials handler.

Like a vulture would dissect its prey, the VRS clamp arms pin down the vehicle to allow the grapple to systematically pull the valuable materials away from the lower value vehicle body shell. The knife blades on the clamp arms of the VRS 200 allow engine and transmission assemblies to be split from the engine block. 

The order of the dismantling process varies from vehicle to vehicle and the preference of the operator. However, the key extra profit materials that can easily be extracted are; the high value copper wiring loom, heavy steel components from axle and suspension assemblies, electric motors and, the engine and transmission assembly. The engine and transmission assembly can then be split down into its component materials, such as the alloy gearbox and engine head.

The beauty of the VRS is in its combination of power and dexterity. The grapple features a slender, plier like shape, providing an unbroken line of sight from the operator to the vehicle, allowing valuable materials like the copper wiring loom to be extracted from even the tightest of areas. Combine this with the power of both the grapple mounted shear, for cutting the body shell and suspension brackets, and the high torque rotation unit on top of the grapple, and the VRS is the ultimate vehicle dismantling machine. 

Having designed and manufactured attachments for use in the scrap metal and recycling sector for over 20 years, the team at Powerhand are well aware of the harsh nature of the vehicle recycling environment and how unforgiving the tasks are on attachments. Hence, the VRS is constructed from high strength alloy steels and all hydraulic components are completely protected and guarded from potentially damaging debris.

Depending on vehicle type and the amount of added value materials being extracted, operators of the VRS advise that they can process in excess of five cars per hour and generate between £ 40 and £ 60 in extra added profit per vehicle, making VRS an attractive investment for recycling companies.

The continued success of VRS has led to the development of a new, more compact VRS 160 model. Aimed at recycling companies who do not require all the advanced features of VRS 200, the new 160 model can be fitted to smaller tracked excavators and materials handling machines.

Whilst the VRS 160 grapple is lighter in design, the new model still employs the same operating geometry and high strength grapple leg design with hardened steel tines.

The clamp legs are independent and operate only vertically, requiring only one hydraulic function through the base of the machine. This makes installation of the VRS 160 simple, as the single hydraulic function required is readily available on many smaller excavators that have bulldozer blade mountings. Thus, reducing the cost of the whole system as no further hydraulic works are needed.

In a statement from the Powerhand Managing Director, Douglas Clark said “We believe there is a place in the market for both versions of our VRS. The original VRS 200, gives the recycler the ability to realise extra profit from the ability to split engine assemblies and the grapple shear makes the task of axle removal very simple. The VRS 160 has been designed in response from the market for a more compact machine capable of being fitted to smaller standard excavators with a lower overall cost but, still employing many of the proven features of VRS 200. The 160 model has its own set of unique features as well, such as a high-speed rotation unit and independently moving vertical clamp legs.”

The VRS 160 prototype is being unveiled on the Powerhand stand at the upcoming CARS exhibition and its market launch date is set to be early 2019.

Images: The VRS series at work


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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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e2e Total Loss Vehicle Management [e2e] is the UK’s only salvage and automotive recycling network with nationwide, environmentally compliant sites delivering performance resilience and service reliability to the insurance and fleet markets.  The network’s online salvage auction drives strong salvage resale values and faster sales.  e2e’s salvage clients have access to the network’s stocks of over 5 million quality graded, warranty assured reclaimed parts. 

The power of the network model means e2e has the ability to influence industry standards and is committed to continually raising the bar whilst redefining the role and perceived value of the salvage operator.  Network members adhere to robust service level agreements, against which they are audited, in order to ensure performance consistency and a market leading customer experience.  

The salvage and recycling operating environment is evolving rapidly, and e2e is anticipating, listening and responding to changing market needs.  Regulatory compliance, ESG, reclaimed parts, customer experience, EVs, new vehicle technologies, data and reputation risk are just some of many considerations linked to the procurement of salvage services.  e2e will drive further added value to clients and members through the adoption and application of emerging technologies, continuing to differentiate its proposition and position salvage services as a professional partnership. 

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