Vehicle recycling has always been associated with crushing cars to be recycled in a steel mill. In fact, cars are the number one recycled product in the country. However, the process of recycling vehicles is getting more and more complicated as new technology takes over auto manufacturing. Reducing fuel consumption, innovative drive systems (for example, a used engine brain box) and e-Mobility mean different manufacturing processes and products, which require a different style of recycling. Today, we are at that threshold where the future of recycling automotive products will be completely different from the past.
The End of Life Vehicles Directive introduced by the European Union (EU) takes effect January 2015. The requirements stipulate that 95 percent of the production materials are recovered in the recycling process and then disposed of professionally, and that 85 percent of a vehicle’s components are either reused or recycled in the production process. This subject was discussed at the 14th International Automobile Recycling Congress (IARC 2014) by representative of car manufacturers, researchers and the representatives of major recycling companies, but they didn’t have a complete answer.
These new regulations are having a big impact on the way cars are manufactured. There needs to be a sustainable recycling process for the new energy sources and drive systems.
More and more cars include electric components for drive assemblies, and the technology that is needed to recycling these new types of electric drive components and the new materials that are used to manufacture these vehicles has not yet been discovered. Added value can be generated by selling to a new market electronic wastes and a variety of metal compounds that are recovered at the end of the vehicle’s life cycle.
The wider topic is when and how to replace the limited supply of fossil fuels and how to reduce the consumption of energy by society in general. E-Mobility is one answer. It uses electric powertrain technology as well as communication technologies, in-vehicle information and connected infrastructures that enable electrically driven vehicles. This includes fully electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids as well as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. All of this is required to address the market demands for lower operational costs and corporate emission requirements. If E-mobility is the future, then the means to recycle all the components needed for this technology is required and sooner rather than later.
A transformation is needed that leads to the use of new energy systems and ways of using new materials for the manufacture of automobiles. The BMW i3 is powered by an electric motor which is emission-free. It is useful for urban mobility in city centers where certain models of vehicles have been banned for years.
One problem that has not yet been solved is the disposal of high-voltage lithium-ion batteries at their end-of-life. The batteries are essential because they allow electric vehicles to go longer distances without recharging. The issues raised by the EU requirements for recycling automobile parts and their deadline are fast approaching, and there seems to be no viable solution in sight.