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BMW Creates Closed-Loop Cycle For Rare-Earth Tungsten

One of the common criticisms leveled against widespread EV adoption is the use of the rare-Earth minerals used in batteries, solar cells, and processors (“chips” as they’re commonly referred to). Those materials are often hard to mine, and expensive, leading to some — let’s go with “questionable” means of acquiring them occurring now and then.  Some companies are using blockchain to ensure ethical provenance of rare-Earth minerals, but BMW is taking that a step further by creating a closed-loop cycle for tungsten that effectively recycles the material at levels we haven’t seen before.

What’s more, those efforts are drastically cutting lifetime carbon emissions of BMW’s EVs. “We will significantly increase the percentage of recycled raw materials by 2030, and use raw materials multiple times in a circular economy,” explains said Dr Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Purchasing and Supplier Network. “Every gram that conserves natural resources and doesn’t contribute to violations of environmental and social standards counts.”

Recycling Tungsten Cuts Carbon Emissions

Image courtesy BMW Group.

More knowledgeable readers might point out, here, that tungsten isn’t widely used in EV batteries, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a critical element in the manufacturing of EV batteries. “Tungsten (was) once considered an irritating by-product of tin mining, since it ‘ate up’ the tin ore,” reads a statement from BMW, “It took a few hundred years for carbide’s unique properties to be recognized. (It’s) heavy like gold, hard as a diamond and dozens of times more heat-resistant than iron. Today, it can be found in the vibration alarm of mobile phones and light bulb filaments, as well as drill and milling bits for industrial machinery used in producing cars.”

So, if I’m reading that correctly, it’s a rare-Earth thing that’s essential in getting different rare-Earth stuff out of the ground. That’s great news, because BMW alone works through some 7 tons (!) of tungsten per year.  Using recycled tungsten recovered in its new process will enable BMW to reduces its tungsten-related energy consumption by 70%, and those CO2 emissions by more than 60% as well.  Significant numbers, in other words, and numbers that mean rate of destructive mining is going down.

So, good news all over — or, is it? Check out the full press release over at our sister site, EV Obsession, then come back to the comments section at the bottom of the page and let us know what you think of BMW’s fancy new recycling process for rare-Earth metals.  Enjoy!

Source | ImagesBMW.

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I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and have been a part of the Important Media Network since 2008. You can find me here, working on my Volvo fansite, riding a motorcycle around Chicago, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.


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