Circular cars aim to reduce, reuse, recycle and repeat
November 27, 2021
Buying an electric vehicle that produces zero tailpipe emissions because it doesn’t have any is a decision many people are considering as a way to reduce their carbon footprint.
The point is, of course, that the amounts of energy that go into producing and building any new vehicle, regardless of its motive power, are always significant, and many of the parts and materials used are not. recycled, or can simply “be.
While the lead-acid batteries used in traditional cars are widely recycled, the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles are particularly difficult to recycle and contain raw materials such as cobalt, lithium and nickel.
The response to the emissions reduction challenges associated with the vast auto industry is best described as a circle, or closed circular economy, in which the goal is to âreduce, reuse and recycleâ – not just with batteries, but every element possible.
Some car designers are even working on the idea of âââperpetual mobility modulesâ, where as many parts as possible – from doors to wheels to panels – can be removed, replaced and recycled.
The most radical example of this is the recently unveiled i Vision Circular by BMW, a 100% recyclable concept car that uses no paint, a minimal amount of glue – to facilitate disassembly for recycling – and no badges. Even the seat padding, which is made from recycled plastic, can be removed and replaced, and the steering wheel is 3D printed from wood dust.
BMW Chief Design Officer Domagoj Dukec, who takes particular pride in the anodized aluminum surfaces, which do not need painting and have logos engraved instead of sticking on plastic badges, says: âThis car has 80 % less coins than most, but it offers more.
This circular concept is far from production ready, which is why it also uses a notional solid-state battery (which no one has yet offered in a production car) which BMW says can be fully recycled. .
Volkswagen is working on finding ways to recycle current lithium-ion batteries and said that through hydrometallurgy it should be possible to recover up to 95% of the materials that make up cells.
The hydrometallurgy process involves deconstructing a battery, removing and crushing the modules and extracting the liquid electrolyte. After the lithium, nickel, manganese, cobalt and graphite granules have dried, âaqueous solutionsâ are used to separate the different metals, which can then be reused to make new cells.
The VW Group’s first recycling plant, in Salzgitter, Germany, is already operational and Volkswagen CEO Ralf Brandstatter has said his company is on the âroad to zeroâ.
âIn the future, employees, customers and investors will favor companies that place their social and environmental responsibility at the heart of their business,â explains Brandstatter. âSustainability will thus become a crucial factor in the success of companies. We take a holistic approach to decarbonization: from production to lifespan to recycling. “
The World Economic Forum has established a Global Battery Alliance (GBA), which is a public-private collaboration of 70 organizations with the aim of creating a ‘circular battery value chain’, which it believes is essential to achieving the goals. of the Paris Climate Agreement for the transport and electricity sectors.
The GBA estimates that the use of batteries could reduce the carbon emissions needed in these two sectors by 30%, provide 600 million people with access to electricity and create 10 million sustainable jobs worldwide. ‘by 2030.
Reusing electric vehicle batteries to provide access to electricity in disadvantaged areas was the goal of a “solar nanogrid” established in Uttar Pradesh, India, where regular and hourly power cuts make difficult life, especially for small businesses.
Created by German-Indian start-up Nunam, it reuses two Audi e-tron batteries previously used in test vehicles to power around 50 traders and small businesses so they can continue working at night.
âSecond life batteries offer immense opportunities for greater sustainability, especially if they are powered by green electricity,â says Prodip Chatterjee, co-founder of Nunam. âWe prevent premature recycling of intact battery modules while ensuring that people can have cheap access to electricity. “
More immediate reuse of electric vehicle batteries can be found at Audi’s charging centers, which are expected to be rolled out across Germany this year.
Designed as the First Class lounge version of an all-electric gas station, the charging stations offer high-speed charging downstairs and an upstairs seating area to provide âan attractive and premium place to pass the timeâ during that you reload.
The hubs are built using flexible container cubes, which house charging pillars and âsecond lifeâ lithium-ion batteries – sourced from Audi’s own electric vehicles. Since these batteries are the storage of the hubs, this makes complex infrastructure, such as high voltage lines and expensive transformers, unnecessary. And that means Audi hubs can be transported, installed and adapted to different places.
âA flexible and high-performance HPC (High Power Charging) charging park like this does not require much from the local power grid and uses a sustainable battery concept,â explains Oliver Hoffmann, Head of Technical Development at Audi.
âOur customers benefit from multiple advantages: the possibility of exclusive reservations, a lounge area and reduced waiting times thanks to efficient recharging.