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

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Materials in future ELVs

Dr. Anja Pieper
Dr Anja Pieper

Dr Anja Pieper, Technical Regulations / Authorities & Associations, Vehicle Recycling & Material restrictions at Volkswagen made a statement at the recent Vehicle Recycling International Conference regarding the future of materials in vehicles. She said that VDA members will continue to use steel as opposed to  CFRP – the more popular choice amongst many vehicle manufacturers.

Dr Pieper provided us with some VDA-statistics on different materials likely to be used in vehicle production in the future and how this will ultimately affect vehicle dismantlers.

Current new vehicles have a metal content of about 75%. These vehicles will become ELVs in 2030-2040 and from a vehicle dismantlers point of view, this is good news as far as retrieving valuable materials goes. Due to the continuously increasing weight of vehicles, the absolute amount of metals is increasing, as well as the continuously increasing amount of non-ferrous metals, which are mainly Aluminium and Copper. Also all future ELVs are equipped with catalytic converters. 

According to the chart below, you can see that the three plus million vehicles used as part of the analysis between 2010-2015 have similar metal content (ferrous and non-ferrous) compared to their 2015-2020 prediction which is good for the vehicle dismantlers’ future profit.

Model year ELVs in year Metal content Fe-content NFe-content Comment
1995 2010 – 2015 75,9 % 68,3 % 7,6 % Germany: analysis and calculation based on 3,1 Mio. new vehicles; market coverage 89 %
2000 2015 – 2020 75,5 % 65,3 % 10,2 % Germany: analysis and calculation based on 3,4 Mio. new vehicles; market coverage 95 %

Source: VDA and VDIK

Metal content in Golf Generations (Source: Volkswagen)


As you can see from the chart above, the VW Golf shows to have been pretty consistent in its metal content (non-ferrous and ferrous) since the Golf I back in 1974 to the current Golf VII. As far as types of materials go for future ELVs, Advanced High Strength Steels (AHSS) does not appear to alter much even with rising Manganese contents; there has only been an increase of approximately 0.5kg Mn per vehicle since 2000 which should cause no challenge for recycling activities in the foreseeable future. See the figures below:

  • 0,24 % Mn in ferrous scrap (VW trial, vehicles model year 2010 ELVs in 2025-30)
  • 0,40 % Mn in ferrous scrap (Archelor Mittal R&D data base 2014)

Another much discussed material is carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). Again a material which will not alter in use when compared to the overall weight of passenger cars between 2013 and 2022 (see the chart below):

Use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP)

Global amount of CFRP use in 2017: 115.000 t (acc. to Stockschläder in Euwid 25/2018). Automotive industry:








CFRP in [t]*

(@ passenger cars)

3.760 t

4.370 t

5.790 t

7.540 t

10.670 t

15.000 t

Passenger cars [Mio.]

(global Production)







Ø CFRP [kg/new car]***

0,06 kg

0,06 kg

0,08 kg

0,09 kg

0,125 kg

0,163 kg

*   Source of basic data: Carbon Composites e.V., Composites Marktbericht 2014, Thomas Kraus & Michael Kühnel, referring to: Acemite Market Intelligence e.K., Market Report: Global Carbon Fiber Composite Market, Ratingen, 2014, CFRP usage in [t] calculated on several basic data

**  Estimated growth 8% every 2 years

*** own calculation (ACEA)

As CFRP is a very expensive lightweight material the use in the automotive industry is neglectable. Vehicles from volume manufacturers do not contain CFRP, besides a small number of CNG tanks, which have to be removed during the pre-treatment process. One exemption is the BMW i3, but registration figures in Germany show:

  • 4.400 registrations in 2017 (0.1 % of registrations; 0.01 % of whole vehicle fleet)
  • ELVs the earliest in 15-20 years

Currently and for the next 10-15 years CFRP from ELVs will be no problem. Beginning in 2029 these vehicles will become ELVs in comparative low quantities. Meanwhile the use of CFRP in consumer products as bikes, tennis rackets, household goods such as washbasins, toilet seats etc. is increasing (see Stockschläder in EUWID 25/2018).

While discussing recycling and recovery of passenger cars and the ‘design for recycling’, one should never forget that 80% of the environmental impact of a vehicle originates from the use-phase. While designing a vehicle developers would need a crystal ball to know which substances will be relevant 20 years later and which recycling technologies will be available.

Post shredder technology is the most efficient way to separate valuable as well as hazard materials.

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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.