Case Studies

While the European automotive manufactures have significantly reduced the environmental impact of vehicle production over the last decade there is still more to be done in terms of enabling circular product options for re-use, upgrading, refurbishment, recovery and recycling.

New designs and materials for internal car parts will be demonstrated through three showcases in actual and simulated environments (as usually done in the car industry) by the following ECOBULK partners:

  • MicroCab H2EV Model in TechnoCentre Coventry University (UK),
  • Fiat Model in CFRiat (Italy) and
  • MAIER’s automotive OEM car model (Spain).

Composites for Interior Car Parts

Central consoles in cars are relatively small and difficult to extract as they are not typically replaced during the vehicle lifetime. Because of this they usually end up as part the automotive shredded residue (ASR) at the end-of-life stage. Even if they were to be extracted, they are not particularly easy to recycle since they tend to combine different plastic polymer families. There is also currently no market for such a recovered material, as it would certainly not meet the aesthetic requirements for use in the interior of new cars.

Due to the ELV directive from the EU, which sets a very high target for recycling material from end-of-life vehilces, it is imperative to find ways to include these parts into some sort of circular strategy. For this reason, central console components were redesigned by partners Maier, CRF and MicroCab to meet these circular challenges.

Maier have been testing the concept of dual layer components using 2k injection moulding. With this process, aesthetics can be maintained by placing a thin layer of virgin material on top of thicker recycled material for structural qualities. By using compatible polymer families for both layers they can ensure recyclability at end-of-life. CRF have been testing the use bio-based composites that they can integrate into existing manufacturing processes. 

Once the vehicles reach the end-of-life stage, partners Bellver and AIMPLAS have developed and tested a reliable recovery process. Using a zigzag air separator, they have been able to obtain relatively high purity textile fibres and plastics fractions from the ASR. This makes it possible to retrieve the composite materials for remanufacture.

Microcab has designed a modular ‘switchpack’ for their Vianova hydrogen vehicle using LFT materials developed by Coventive. They have also implemented dashboard highlights made with PLA materials from Tecnaro. Both these components and materials fit within a new lease business model that incorporates the maintenance and refurbishment of a vehicle for the next 20 years (twice the current average lifespan of a car).  They have created a schedule that will replace parts as necessary due to ageing and thus extend the life of the car. They also aim to preserve the value of the vehicle for longer by upgrading interior parts with more modern components as technologies improve and customer demands change.

If you have any questions on the protorype development and testing, or would like to get in contact with the Ecobulk team for any other reason, please use the form below.