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Improving Recycling Of End-Of-Life Vehicles, BMW Group Leads Car2Car Project

A Car2Car project that explores the circular economy in car manufacturing is being led by BMW Group and is being funded by the German government. BMW Group is collaborating with experts from the recycling sector, commodities processors, and the scientific community to find ways to raise the caliber of secondary raw materials produced through the recycling of end-of-life automobiles.

So, what is an end-of-life automobile? Well, quite simply, it’s an automobile that is done, finished, on its last tire — it will no longer get you where you need to go! Most end up in a salvage yard awaiting their imminent fate to be crushed. It is sad to see all those materials go to waste when they can be recycled and reused.

One of the main goals of the Car2Car project is to find a better way to recycle the materials — aluminum, steel, glass, copper, and plastic. The project is supported by €6.4 million from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action in Germany under its “New Vehicle and System Technologies” funding guidelines.

Future innovations in dismantling and automated sorting techniques should make it possible to make much more resources from scrap cars usable for new cars. That’s what the project is about. A comprehensive assessment of the ecological and financial effects of the materials in a closed-loop recycling is also part of this research.

Michael Kellner, Germany’s Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, said: “The successful transformation of vehicle manufacturers and suppliers is crucial for Germany as a business location. A stronger circular economy that conserves and reuses resources is a key step towards climate neutrality and safeguards supply chains at the same time. Innovation projects in this field are therefore of great importance. The funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs will help to make the automotive industry less dependent on raw material imports and ensure a long-term supply of raw materials for the economy, thereby boosting industrial value creation.”

Uwe Köhler, Senior Vice President of Development Body, Exterior Trim, and Interior at BMW Group, said: “The BMW Group is focusing rigorously on technological innovations as a driver of greater sustainability in all areas of the value chain. The cumulative know-how of the various partners involved in this project could potentially unlock whole new ways of obtaining valuable secondary raw materials. This would make it possible to save natural resources and reduce carbon emissions when manufacturing our vehicles.”

BMW Group has set a goal of bringing the percentage of secondary materials in new models from the current level of roughly 30% up to 50%. Recyclability of materials is already being taken into consideration when creating new models to aid in this goal.

For the project, BMW Group is providing 500 end-of-life automobiles. In order to develop a representative range, a number of models from its own lineup — including combustion engine, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric drivetrain vehicles — are being recycled. This covers a wide range, from MINI and Rolls-Royce.

The consortium members will investigate potential strategies for enhancing closed vehicle material flows. In order to assess how restricting the flow of materials to vehicles affects the quality and purity of secondary raw materials, they are evaluating the effects on both.

The Car2Car collaboration is determining the best mix of post-shredder technologies and the car-dismantling process from a qualitative, economic, and ecological standpoint in order to preserve as much of the value that was initially invested in the production of a car as is practical.

Only a relatively limited portion of car components can be economically recycled using today’s methods, since they require a lot of physical labor and compromise the material’s purity. The goal of Car2Car is to offer sensible suggestions for a cutting-edge framework that will allow an effective circular economy to produce more added value in the future than is achievable by adhering to traditional, linear process chains. So says BMW Group.

Recycling procedures that have been carried out manually up to now can be progressively automated and sped up using digital technology and artificial intelligence, the company expects. Robotics technology, for instance, can be used to partially or even fully automate the disassembly process. Aluminum, steel, glass, copper, and plastic materials have significantly improved in quality and purity as a result of the post-shredder process’s integration of systems for optical and AI-assisted detection and sorting of recyclable materials.

The goal is to create sensor technology that can distinguish between various steel and aluminum alloys, as well as other spectroscopic techniques (such laser-induced plasma spectroscopy), in order to do this. This makes it feasible to access raw materials that are much more pure.

As a result, there are more secondary raw materials available for the manufacture of new cars and much less processing is necessary to convert scrap into useable raw materials. All materials fall under this.

The BMW Group is the Car2Car project’s principal partner and the only automaker taking part in the project. (There’s no information on whether any other automaker was invited to participate.)

“We are facing up to our responsibilities and taking a holistic approach as we search for concrete solutions regarding the efficient use of resources,” says Hilke Schaer, project manager at BMW Group. “The interaction between players from the worlds of industry and science forms the basis for creating practical innovations within the Car2Car project that will lead to scalability potential for the future.”

Future Sustainable Car Materials (FSCM) is a consortium project that is led by BMW Group. Under its direction, research organizations and businesses are collaborating to develop novel material concepts and process pathways for the sustainable use of secondary materials as well as for lowering the carbon footprint of basic materials like steel and aluminum.

BMW Group has operated its own recycling facility since 1994, making it the only automaker to do so. The Recycling and Dismantling Center in Unterschleißheim, close to Munich, processes up to 10,000 automobiles annually.

The conclusions and solutions that result from this process are not only put to use internally, but are also made available to all participants in the recycling industry. Hopefully, they will share their findings with other automakers as well.

Here is a list of the consortium partners that are participating in the Car2Car project:

  • BMW AG
  • TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institute of Mechanical Process Engineering and Mineral Processing
  • TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institute of Iron and Steel Technology
  • TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institute of Glass and Glass Technology
  • Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology at HZDR
  • Technical University of Munich, Professorial Chair of Circular Economy
  • Technical University of Munich, Chair of Materials Handling, Material Flow, Logistics
  • Technical University of Munich, Institute for Machine Tools and Industrial Management
  • Scholz Recycling GmbH
  • STEINERT UniSort GmbH
  • thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG
  • Salzgitter Mannesmann Forschung GmbH
  • Aurubis AG
  • Novelis Deutschland GmbH
  • OETINGER Aluminium GmbH
  • Pilkington Automotive Deutschland GmbH

BMW Group has dabbled in recycling for many years and is probably the best choice to lead the Car2Car project. Maybe they can give a second life to the end-of-life vehicles so we can have a circular automobile economy.

Source & photo: BMW Group

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