From scrap to raw material: state-supported Car2Car project develops technologies to improve recycling of end-of-life vehicles.

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Munich. The BMW Group is heading up a new project
with state funding that explores the circular economy in automotive
manufacturing. The company is joining forces with representatives from
the recycling industry, commodity processors and the world of science
to work on ways of improving the quality of secondary raw materials
obtained from recycling end-of-life vehicles. With €6.4 million-worth
of support from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate
Action in Germany under its “New Vehicle and System Technologies”
funding guidelines, the Car2Car project focuses on the materials
aluminium, steel, glass, copper and plastic. In future, innovative
dismantling and automated sorting methods should allow far greater
quantities of the resources recovered from end-of-life vehicles to be
made suitable for use in the production of new cars than has so far
been the case. This project also includes an end-to-end evaluation of
both the ecological and economic impacts of closed-loop recycling of
the materials being investigated.

Michael Kellner, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal
Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action:
“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 Development Body, Exterior
Trim and Interior, BMW Group:
“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.”

The BMW Group has set itself the target of increasing the
proportion of secondary materials in its brands’ new models from
around 30 per cent at present to 50 per cent. To help achieve this,
the recyclability of the materials used is already taken into account
during the design process for new models. Rethinking how materials are
recovered from vehicles at the end of their product life cycle is also
of key importance. The raw materials obtained from recycling can only
be used as part of a circular economy if they also satisfy the high
standards of quality the BMW Group expects of materials for premium
cars.

The BMW Group is supplying 500 end-of-life vehicles for the
purposes of the project. A variety of models from its own portfolio –
ranging from MINI to Rolls-Royce cars with combustion engines, plug-in
hybrid systems and all-electric drive units – are undergoing recycling
to produce a representative spectrum. Here, the consortium partners
will be looking into potential ways of improving closed vehicle
material flows. They are setting out to evaluate how limiting the flow
of materials to vehicles affects the quality and purity of secondary
raw materials.

Artificial intelligence as an enabler for an efficient
circular economy.
The Car2Car consortium is working out the
optimum balance between the dismantling process and post-shredder
technologies from a qualitative, economic and ecological perspective –
in order to retain as much of the value initially invested in the
manufacturing of a car as possible. Today’s recycling processes
involve a high degree of manual effort and result in a loss of
material purity, meaning they are only economically viable for a very
small number of vehicle components. Car2Car aims to present sound
recommendations for an innovative framework that will enable an
efficient circular economy to deliver greater added value in future
than is possible by following conventional, linear process chains.

Digital technology and artificial intelligence can be used to
increasingly automate and speed up recycling processes that have been
performed manually up to now. The dismantling process, for instance,
can be partly or even highly automated with the help of robotics
technology. The integration of systems for optical and AI-assisted
detection and sorting of reusable materials in the post-shredder
process brings about a significant improvement in the quality and
purity of aluminium, steel, glass, copper and plastic materials.

In order to achieve this, the idea is to develop, among other
things, sensor technology using AI-based materials detection and other
spectroscopic methods (e.g. laser-induced plasma spectroscopy) that is
capable of identifying different steel and aluminium alloys. In this
way, it is possible to obtain raw materials with a far higher degree
of purity. This increases the quantity of secondary raw materials
suitable for the production of new cars, while also meaning that far
less processing work is required to turn scrap into reusable raw
materials. This applies to all materials.

BMW Group is actively involved in circular economy issues in a
variety of ways.
As lead partner in the Car2Car project and
the only participating carmaker, the BMW Group is driving forward the
transformation to a circular economy. “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 the 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.”

The BMW Group is also heading up another consortium project
entitled Future Sustainable Car Materials (FSCM). Under its lead,
research institutes and companies are working together on innovative
process routes and material concepts for sustainable use of secondary
materials and for reducing the carbon footprint of raw materials such
as steel and aluminium. The use of secondary aluminium is a prime
example of how consistent use of recycled material can cut greenhouse
gas emissions.

The BMW Group is also carrying out important groundwork when it
comes to the actual recycling of vehicles at the end of their service
life. The company is the only carmaker to run its own recycling
centre, which has been in operation since 1994. Up to 10,000 vehicles
a year are processed at the Recycling and Dismantling Centre in
Unterschleißheim near Munich. As well as being applied internally, the
findings and solutions that emerge from this process are also made
accessible to all players in the recycling industry.

The following consortium partners 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 

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