Mark White, Technical Specialist – Light Weight Vehicle Structures discusses the importance of why VMs and material suppliers should consider how materials from future vehicles are segregated to make them safer and better for the environment when they reach their end of the life.
For nearly 100 years most cars were made from iron and steel, from engine castings to sheet steel used on car bodies. Following the fuel crisis of 1973 and 1997, legislators and car manufacturers began to look at ways to make vehicles more economical to run. In the late 1990s, legislators began to look at vehicle emissions as our cities began to have problems with pollution, which in turn, led to an impact on people’s health.
In an attempt to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy, vehicle manufacturers devised a three core strategy:
- improve powertrain efficiency with more diesels, turbocharging & engine down-sizing
- reduce parasitic losses by improving aerodynamic & thermal efficiency
- reduce weight through the application of lighter & stronger materials such as high strength steels and aluminium alloys.
Whilst the first two strategies have had minimal impact on the value of, and what happens to vehicles at the end of their life (apart from the value of materials in catalytic converters), the application of new materials to the body, chassis and powertrain has added complexity and potential additional value to scrap vehicles.
The wide-scale adoption of aluminium alloys, for example, for wheels, engine blocks & cylinder heads, as well as many chassis parts as die-cast components has increased the value of scrap vehicles, as this aluminium can be segregated and remelted for use in making new components, but in many cases, this is done today at a low level, and often the aluminium is just mixed scrap, so realises only a fraction of its potential value, and in some instances, is exported outside of Europe, lowering the value further.
In the next decade, the use of aluminium by vehicle manufacturers will increase to save more weight. The emissions and fuel economy targets increase in the UK, Europe and all markets and vehicle manufacturers are looking to make “greener vehicles” that have less of an environmental impact in the production of the vehicle and how they are re-used or recycled at the end of life. This will mean there is even more potential value in segregating vehicle parts into the various material types to maximise their value and minimise the recycling process to manufacture new vehicle components. Aluminium, for example, when segregated into alloy types, is worth more than double the value than if it is mixed scrap.
Vehicle Manufacturers are already putting segregation in place to separate their in-process scrap generated during the manufacturing process to maximise the value of the scrap and make it easier to recycle with lower energy and related CO2, but little effort to date has gone into “Design for disassembly” or “end of life” recycling, there are some notable exceptions with projects like ‘Reality’ and ‘ReAlCar’ involving recyclers, vehicle manufacturers and material suppliers to look at better use of the end of life materials and how can we segregate better at a vehicle level to lower the impact on the environment and maximise the value, but more has to be done if we are to realise the true value of end of life vehicles.
Now with the increased sales of “Battery Electric Vehicles” (BEVs), in future, the value of the end of life vehicles will further increase, and at the same time, present even bigger recycling challenges with large lithium-ion battery packs needed to get acceptable vehicle range. So we must start thinking about how we segregate these materials from our future vehicles in a better way to make them safer and better for the environment when at the end of the vehicle life, but at the same time, come up with economical solutions for segregation and recycling at the possible highest level.
If you would like to contact Mark, please email him at email@example.com
Mark worked at Jaguar & Jaguar Land Rover most of his working career in the area of Body Design, his areas of expertise are Light Weight Vehicle technology & Advanced Body Development. Mark retired from JLR in 2016 & now works as an industry advisor on Body Architecture, Concept Design, BEV BIW & Battery structure design & optimisation. Mark is also an Associate Professor at the BCAST Centre at Brunel University & Chairman of the Industrial Advisory Board for BCAST