Newsletter 3 – Ecobulk: Focus on Materials and Business

ECOBULK project meeting at ITENE

Partner ITENE hosted the month 18 meeting of the ECOBULK partners at their offices in Valencia, Spain. The partners participated in workshops and  shared their progress. The meeting focused on refining the prototype designs, discussing material developments, and preparing for the demonstrations due to be deployed by the end of 2019.

ECOBULK Progress Bar M18
ECOBULK Progress Bar M18

Project Update

ECOBULK Fastener Finder
The new online Fastener Finder database

 

The project is wrapping up the Circular Design Framework and a number of related deliverables, including the Fastener Finder by TUDelft and the Materials Explorer by Granta Design. Both these systems will be helping designers and manufacturers to make more circular choices for their products and materials. 

Read more about the project updates.

 

Business Model Workshops

Partners took part in a new round of workshops to further refine the prototype concepts and designs, this time focusing on the business model innovation. Workshop leaders Oakdene Hollins and TUDelft created an iterative role play process to elicit expectations and requirements from the stakeholders in the circular chain.

Read more about the workshops.

ECOBULK - Business Models Workshop - Valencia
Stakeholder Role Play at the Workshops

Materials Development

Coventive's pultrusion based LFT pellets

Partners shared their progress and samples, now being tested and refined, to be used in the prototypes being developed by the product partners. Among these, Coventive talked about their efforts to develop first natural fibre, and now carbon fibre, LFT pellets. Their research progression, leading up to the practical implementation of their knowledge and processes for ECOBULK, was shared recently at the Long-Fibre Thermoplastics 2018 conference in Berlin. The work on recycled carbon fibre drew considerable interest from members of the automotive industry in the audience.
Read more about Coventive’s LFTs.

ECOBULK - The Movie

To mark the M18 transition into the prototype and demonstration phase, an ECOBULK promotional video was produced that explains the project and planned demonstrations. The video premiered at the project’s presentation at Ecomondo in November, and is now available online. 

Events

ECOBULK has been getting around the last few months:

  • TEDx, SWARM – MICROCAB discussed and promoted the ECOBULK project during the SWARM conference and their TEDx talk in October 2018.
  • Ecomondo, November 2018 – The project, the new video and the furniture prototypes were presented at the ISWA stand, with the help of partners Exergy, KEAS, Moretti Compact and NTT (read more…)
  • Modern Composite Solutions – Conenor visited the event in Finland in November 2018 and promoted the project (read more…).
  • Ecofira (Valencia) and CONAMA (Madrid) – AIMPLAS promoted the project at these events.

Coming up:

  • AMI Wind Turbine Manufacture – Conenor and TUDelft are presenting their research into solutions for recycling turbine blades in December 2018 in Dusseldorf.
  • EcoComp – Coventive will be co-hosting this event and promoting their work on ECOBULK in June 2019 in Coventry.
  • ISWA World Congress 2019 – ECOBULK presentation and promotion in October 2019 in Bilbao.
  • POLYCHAR – IPCB-CNR will organise the 27th Polychar conference in October 2019 in Naples

Meet us at one of the upcoming events!

Business models revisited

Creating circular value chains is not always straightforward, as choices for each stage have ripple effects on the entire chain. These effects can have secondary effects, and so the ripples go on. The only way to resolve this is to implement an iterative process.

This iterative process has been integrated into the design process for the ECOBULK prototypes and demonstrators. Initial prototype designs were created based on the Circular Design Framework and workshops from the previous consortium meeting. The next iteration in the process were the business model workshops at the M18 meeting in Valencia.

Design Workshops - Optimizing Business Models

EOCBULK Business Model Ambition versus Circularity

To start off with, the partners were asked to judge a number of different circular products and concepts that have been introduced into the market recently. Each of these was to be placed on two scales – one reflecting the level of circularity involved in the idea and another one assessing the level of ambition in the business model being used. The discussions served to calibrate the participants understanding and expectation of circular solutions and business models. After discussing several of these examples, the participants were then asked to consider the prototypes and demonstrations planned for ECOBULK.

Table setup Workshop

For this exercise the participants were divided into groups, each representing the different stakeholders in the system. There was a Materials table, a Manufacturing table, a Users table and an End-of-Life table. Each table was confronted with questions about what practical solutions or considerations would be important to increase the circularity of products in a particular sector.

 A list of requirements and questions would then emerge to could be directed to any of the other stakeholder tables. This list could then be passed around to the relevant stakeholders to answer and/or possibly provide further requests and questions to other tables. After several rounds, an overall shared picture could crystallize among the groups about the remaining obstacles and challenges that could be solved to improve the current circular concepts.

During the Construction workshop, some of the considerations revolved around the practicalities of separating waste streams for recovery, the importance of end-user behaviour in ensuring the availability of waste streams, and strategies for product life/cycle extension. For example, when trying to recover materials it is essential to have reliable data on what the material contents are, and it would be most helpful if materials were mixed as little possible, or at least were easily separable. To improve user attitudes and behaviour towards returning materials back into the cycle, communication was considered key – concepts like tagging materials with informative and inspiring messages like “in my next life I would like to be a spoon” to encourage people to be aware and engage with the life-cycles of their products. To solve for the collection logistical problem, the end-user engagement and strategies for life extension, a peer 2 peer network would allow end-users to match supply and demand in an organic way.

Slotted construction for sheds
Slotted construction makes components easily separated for reuse and recovery.

The Automotive workshop produced some interesting discussions about the use preferences of car drivers which may be a barrier to shared car models, a more modular approach to vehicle design, and the manufacturers role in creating a wider acceptance of recycled materials used in aesthetic components. The idea of car sharing is quite popular, but still lacks wider appeal possibly because there is no possible customisation of the shared vehicle. This can be difficult to accept for many users who have as much an emotional relationship with their cars as they do a functional one. More modularity in design and equipment could help to increase the life span and maintain value by exchanging outdated parts with modern ones. Acceptance of recycled materials in aesthetic components could also be improved by manufacturers adapting their marketing to promote them – users have already accepted other forms of upcycled and recycled products as fashionable.

Microcab modular central console
Central console can be easily replaced and refurbished, extending the useful life of the car.

The partners will continue to develop and refine their prototypes as ECOBULK starts preparing for the demonstration phase of the project. Follow the progress by  signing up for our newsletter, and join us on our social media channels.

Coventive’s Quest for the Circular, Long Fibre Pellet

In the automotive industry lower weight means lower fuel consumption. One way to achieve lower weight is to replace heavy metal parts with lighter plastic ones, however, the replacement parts need to be made of materials offering similar structural performance. This is where composites come in. 

In particular, long fibre reinforced thermoplastic composites (LFTs) offer increased strength and toughness; and could be considered the best choice for structural performance for injection mouldable thermoplastic parts. These qualities basically translate to lower weight for parts at equal structural performance, a valuable economic and environmental advantage. 

Coventive have been working to develop first natural fibre, and now carbon fibre, LFT pellets. Their research progression, leading up to the practical implementation of their knowledge and processes for ECOBULK, was shared recently at the Long-Fibre Thermoplastics 2018 conference in Berlin. The work on recycled carbon fibre drew considerable interest from members of the automotive industry in the audience.

Coventive's LFT Journey

Coventive’s adventure into LFT’s started already with previous projects. Their original foray into this subject was more a feasibility study than anything else. With the project ECO-LFT, Coventive demonstrated their first ability to create a long fibre pellet that could be used for injection moulding. In a follow up project to develop a process for self-reinforced composites, PELTEC, they also by chance started experimenting with natural fibres. The experiment was eventually successful in delivering a pultrusion based process to create LFT pellets for which the material and moulded samples achieved all the technical specifications required by the manufacturers, except for one – price. The original recipe used continuous yarn fibre – which has a high added value and had a significant effect on the final pellet price. Coventive are working hard to replace the high value yarn with discontinuous, cheaper sources that will still maintain the same qualities.  This project will conclude in the spring of next year, by which time they expect to be able to supply production samples to those interested.

For ECOBULK, targeting the automotive industry, the collaboration with Coventive was obvious. Cooperations like this clearly highlight the value of demonstration projects that can bring separate research developments together and integrate them into a practical, circular market application. The knowledge and experience gained by Coventive in the pultrusion process for LFT’s can now be implemented to specifically develop alternative carbon fibre LFT pellets using recycled and waste materials. This would achieve the required structural properties for diverse uses in car parts, at a competitive price, lower weight, and with full circular credentials.

Their initial studies have shown that it should be possible to create LFT pellets using selvedge waste (virgin carbon fibre trimmings – production waste) and pyrolised carbon fibres from waste composite materials (recycled).  Using these sources, the fibres maintain slightly lower but similar properties, but offer a 35% – 50% reduction in price. 

The supply of selvedge (virgin carbon fibre trimmings) for this purpose might pose problems at scale, although at the moment this is considered production waste and has no commercial value. The pyrolised carbon fibres however, can probably count on a readily available supply from waste composites recyclers once the value of them has been established.

Follow the developments of Coventive and other ECOBULK material partners by signing up to our newsletter, and joining our social media channels. 

M18 ECOBULK Project Update

ECOBULK - Business Models Workshop - Valencia

The consortium gathered in Valencia for their regular 6 monthly meeting, hosted by partner ITENE at their offices in Paterna. After 18 months of hard work, the partners shared their progress, and collaborated on workshops designed to enhance the ECOBULK prototypes and demonstrations. 

Business and Design

The full first day was spent on intensive workshops specifically designed to challenge and stimulate the partners to further refine the business models for their circular prototypes. These workshops were a follow up to the previous circular design workshops in Koblenz (M12 – 06/2018) where the first concepts for the prototypes were crafted based on different circular strategies.

EOCBULK Business Model Ambition versus Circularity

The circular design process, perhaps by its very nature in having to integrate solutions from both up and down the value chain, requires an iterative approach where the original designs and concepts are revisited to ensure that the partial solutions being integrated are well matched and adjusted to each other where necessary. While this redesign iteration focused on the business model, the next ones will revisit and optimize material choices and then recovery options at end of life. Read more about the workshops.

ECOBULK Fastener Finder
The Fastener Finder developed by TUDelft

The meeting also featured presentations of some of the many deliverables due at this stage of the project. One of these was the finalised Circular Design framework developed by TUDelft, and a great new tool, the Fastener Finder, specifically designed to search for and provide information on the circularity of a wide range of fasteners and joining options for designers and manufacturers. This enables smarter, more circular choices to be made already at design time that make the flow of products and materials easier in the subsequent steps of the circular chain.

Materials

Of course, an essential part of circular design has to do with materials – which ones to choose and how to improve them for circular scenarios. In Valencia the partners presented the latest developments in this area. Granta has been working on the Materials Explorer database, which enables designers and manufacturers to choose from a wealth of materials and the resulting circular impact on the product from those choices. Further, our materials partners have continued developing and improving new materials for the ECOBULK project, based on pultrusion (Coventive), compounding (Tecnaro), agglomeration (Conenor), Airlaid (NTT) and hot press (KEAS/AKZO/CU) processes. These target different applications for the demonstrations, and are all now testing and improving their formulations for production.

PartnerTechnologyMaterialsApplication
CoventivePultrusionRecycled PP Natural Fibre - LFT PelletsAutomotive Interior Components
TecnaroCompoundingRecylced PP + Natural FibresAutomotive Interior Components
ConenorAgglomerationRecycled PE/PP + narural fibres, G-FRP wasteConstruction and outdoor furniture
NTTAirlaid TechnologyPL + PU, PL + Wood scrapsAutomotive (floor carpets), Furniture (upholstery), Construction (insulation)
KEAS/AKZO/CUHot PressingParticle Boards (increased recycled content)Furniture

Afterwards, IRIS as lead of the task on material conditioning for recycled streams, presented the advances on DMSO based cleaning processes and plasma activation for plastic surfaces that will help to eliminate impurities and improve the adhesion to both other materials as well as paints for a higher quality finish on recycled plastic materials.

ECOBULK Plasma Treatment for Plastics

Systems and Services

UPC, along with partners Exergy, ITENE, Granta and IRIS have been hard at work developing the digital systems support that will be necessary to enable the efficient circular flow of materials and products. Along with the required databases that will house the enormous amounts of data for the materials, their properties and their availability, they are also starting to design a decision support system that will help to make the most appropriate and efficient decisions at each stage of the circular chain. The system will first help in identifying the product or components, and then based on a reported failure mode can then propose possible actions such as repair, refurbishment or recycling by taking into account both economic and environmental costs of each action. 

Next Steps

During the next few months, the prototypes will be further refined and developed. They will go into production towards in 2019 so that they can be deployed to the demonstration sites by the end of next year. As the plans for the demonstrations become more concrete, we will be posting more information on what, where and how you will be able to experience the ECOBULK demo products.

Follows us and get all our updates by signing up for the newsletter below, and join our social media channels.

ECOBULK in Lahti, Finland

The Finnish Plastics Federation (FIPIF) and its Composites Group held their 2-day annual event to highlight modern composite applications in Lahti, Finland on the 22nd and 23rd of November 2018. The conference featured many talks and discussions that emphasized the need for the development of more circular options in FRP materials and applications, particularly in light of the expectations that the Glass and Carbon Fiber Reinforce Plastics will continue to grow at an accelerated pace.

Conenor, an ECOBULK materials partner who is currently developing new materials based on FRP waste was there to talk about the project and their new circular wood plastic composite extrusion materials that feature up to 35% FRP waste.  Both Conenor and TUDelft will be presenting their work on developing circular solutions specifically for decommissioned wind turbine blades, as well as highlighting the new Circular Design framework for bulky composite products, at the AMI Conference on Wind Turbine Blade Manufacture in December in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Decommissioned wind turbine blades crushed and integrated into circular plastic extrusion profiles
Core layer: Epoxy-glass fibre FRP-waste/recycled HDPE-plastic | Surface layer: waste wood / recycled HDPE-plastic

ECOBULK at Ecomondo

Earlier in November, we took opportunity to present the project, the circular design framework and some of the early prototypes at the Ecomondo Exhibition in Rimini, Italy. At the ISWA booth, representatives from partners Exergy, KEAS, Next Technology Tecnotessile, and Moretti Compact joined in.

ECOBULK is a design-led circular economy project. For us, this means that we believe that the best, time to integrate the many solutions and concepts required to make a product more circular is at the design stage. The Circular Design framework, developed by TUDelft, is a design philosophy, as well as set of tools and strategies, that help to redesign products in a way that will allow manufacturers to take advantage of circular opportunities for repairing, refurbishing, reusing and only as a final resort, recycling their products and materials. 

At Ecomondo, we presented for the first time our video that explains the project, its goals and practical demonstrations. After this introduction, each of our partners then talked about their own contributions to the project.

Moretti Compact displayed a new modular furniture concept using recycled wood particleboard and reusable hot glue binders. The modularity allows for easy reconfiguration of a single base unit into a chair, a desk, shelves or even a bed.

Huseyin Metin from KEAS Kastamonu talked about the development of a new particleboard that will include more than 20% of recycled wood, and significantly lower the formaldehyde emissions. The new materials are currently being tested for integration into the demonstration products.

Also on display were early samples of wood plastic composites from Conenor that include up to 35% of crushed wind turbine blade waste in a thermoplastic matrix that ensures almost endless recycling. These will be used to create sheds, benches and other light structures at the new motorsport center Kyimiring in Finland.

Daniele Spinneli from NTT displayed samples of some of their airlaid non-woven materials for application in the construction, automotive and furniture industries. Non-wovens tend to be lighter than traditional materials, which can make cars more than two kilograms lighter saving fuel and carbon emissions.

Dominik Jasinski, represnting Exergy – the coordinator of the project – talked about their ongoing efforts to develop a stakeholder platform. This platform will be essential to exchange the information necessary to enable circular options across lifecycle stages and different industries. It will also connect supply with demand in a circular marketplace that will allow manufacturers to explore new, more circular business models.

In December, the consortium will meet in Valencia at the office of our partner ITENE. There we will refine the use of the design framework to integrate the expert knowledge of all partners to redesign the demonstration products in the automotive, construction and furniture sectors.

To find out more, subscribe to our newsletter here below. The next issue will be out in mid-december and will report on the latest developments and results.

ECOBULK Project Video

With the project fast approaching the 18 month mark, we are now ready to start promoting the work that has been done to create a Circular Design framework for composite products and its initial application to the Automotive, Construction and Furniture sectors.

As a first step, we are launching our promotional video, which introduces the project and some of the new designs and concepts that will be tested during the demonstration phase.

We hope you enjoyed the show. If you wish to find out more about the project, contact us or subscribe to our newsletter below.

Newsletter 2 – ECOBULK does design

ECOBULK - first year's progress toward circular composite products

The ECOBULK consortium met for the 3rd time, this time hosted by partner TOMRA in Koblenz, Germany. During the visit, the partners also had a chance to see the inside of TOMRA’s innovation and testing centre, a report on which you can read here.

This occasion also marks 1 year of the ECOBULK project.  In that context, it was time for a more explicit consensus among the partners as to the ultimate goals. This resulted in a new vision statement which you can read here.

After a thorough investigation of the baseline scenario [download here], the pilot products to be redesigned and made more circular were selected. The project can now enter its design phase, and to present the process of incorporating circularity into products, MicroCab shared [see here] how they have been doing just that. To support the design research conducted by TUDelft, part of the meeting was dedicated to a design workshop which tested the new Circular Design Framework [read more]. 

Of course, circularity is not just about products, but also about processes. The work has begun on designing the information systems to support the level of data needed to be stored and exchanged during the prolonged life-cycle of the new circular products and materials. Open API architectures will enable relevant databases to implement micro-services that can be used to find and combine the correct data. However, the complexity of the decision tasks might be better suited to machine learning techniques – AI systems might be able recommend courses of action to maintain circularity quickly and effectively.

The next six months promise to be very busy for our partners, as they gear up to prepare for the demonstrations, the re-design of the pilot products and their manufacture. ECOBULK will also be holding more workshops and events towards the end of this year. To stay updated with the project follow our Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin profiles or, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to our mailing list.

The ECOBULK Vision

The ECOBULK Vision


“Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean and make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs, Apple.


 

To be circular is to thrive within our planet’s natural boundaries.  This requires a shift from a ‘take-make-use-waste’ economy to a ‘make-use-save’ economy.  The move to a circular economy will require systems thinking, will deal with complex problems and challenge deep-rooted – perhaps unconscious – behaviours, though the end result might be simple.  ECOBULK is part of that move.  

Product design for a circular economy is a fundamental aspect of the ECOBULK project.  The project considers design strategies that maximise the future value of materials and avoids waste.  Within the detail, the ECOBULK project will keep to some clear principles:

Challenge every step: circular economy needs vision and fresh thinking.  Challenge and be transparent about the need for the decisions we are making and how they contribute to circularity.

Minimise ecological footprint: the materials and processes used must strive to limit negative environmental impacts, whilst still addressing social, technical and economic needs.  Environmental impact should be decreased through adapting the principles of the circular economy such as closing the resource use loop.

Keep the value: design for the hierarchy of durability, upgrading, adapting, repair, remanufacturing and parts harvesting.  Recycling and composting are the last resorts.

Life cycle thinking: ensure decisions consider both the first and successive product lifecycles, are based on sound science and use LCA and other accepted analytical bases.

Demonstrate by doing: use the process of demonstration to test and show new technologies, processes and designs for the circular economy.

Better information: information is essential for valuable re-use or recycling of products and materials, especially in the case of composite material products, where the material properties are tailored to product needs.  Information on material composition and product construction must be available for consumers, recovery activities and future generations who will harvest the value of materials we are using today.

Question the barriers: the fundamental shift to becoming circular may present us with seemingly insurmountable barriers.  Define them, explain them, test them and propose how to get around them.

Work together: a company should work with other entities who are trying to ‘go circular’.  Products are made of parts from the supply chain and all companies need to move towards a circular system.  It cannot be done alone. 

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Design
Design for
Modularity
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Material
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Manufacture
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Retailer
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Waste
Collection
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This is a traditional linear model
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What if we change from a linear model to a circular one
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Recycle
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Refurbish
Remanufacture
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Platform
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With the new circular model and by designing for modularity we can…
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Recycling & recovery
of materials
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Implement and make:
Modular parts
Reuse components
Intermediate products
(Re)manufacture
(Re)furbish
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Provide:
Extended life
Second life
Personalization
Repair / upgrade
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Ease:
Customization
Upgrading
Maintaining
Doing it yourself
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Revalorize:
Waste

Reduce:
Leakage
Create business opportunities for all
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Glossary of key terms:

Business model

An organisations chosen system of decisions and activities that determines how it creates, delivers and captures value over time. 

Circular economy

A circular economy entails decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resource and designing waste and pollution out of the system.  It aims to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life[1].  A circular economy should build economic and social capital and regenerate natural systems.   

Composite materials

A composite material is composed of at least two materials, which combine to give properties superior to those of the individual constituents.  They typically result in lighter, stronger, more durable solutions compared to traditional materials[2].  Composites are hybrid materials, the composition of which is determined by their components.  The most familiar man-made composites are a polymer matrix reinforced by fibres of glass, carbon or Kevlar.     

Composting

Process of controlled biological decomposition of biodegradable materials under managed conditions that are predominantly aerobic and that allow the development of thermophilic temperatures as a result of biologically produced heat[3]

Disposal

Any operation which is not recovery (see below) – even where the operation has a secondary consequence or leads to the reclamation of substances or of energy6.  This includes disposal by incineration where the incineration plant does not meet the EUs R1 energy recovery status[4].

Prevention

Measures taken before a substance, material or product has become waste that reduce the quantity of waste, the adverse impacts of the generated waste on environment and human health and the content of harmful substances in materials and products6.

Recovery

Any operation, the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfil that function in the plant or wider economy6.  This includes incineration facilities where the plant meets the EUs Recovery plant (R1) energy recovery status4

Recycling

Any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes.  It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations6.

Remanufacturing

Returning a used product to at least its original performance with a warranty that is equivalent to or better than that of the newly manufactured product[5].

Repair

Return a faulty or broken product, component or material back to a usable state.  A repair may use remanufactured or reconditioned parts4.

Reuse

Any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived6.

Systems thinking

A holistic approach to understanding how different parts of a system can influence one another and the relationship of the system to the parts over time[6]

Waste

Any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard[7].

Waste hierarchy

The priority order in waste prevention and management: prevention, reuse, recycling, recover, disposal6.

 

 

[1] Adopted from The Ellen Macarthur Foundation and the UKs Waste Resources Action Programme

[2] Taken from Composites UK

[3] Taken from PAS100-2011, Specification for composted materials.

[4] See EU guidance on R1 status

[5] Taken from BS 8887‑2:2009 Design for manufacture, assembly, disassembly and end-of-life processing. Terms and definitions 

[6] Taken from BS 8001:2017, framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations- Guide

[7] Taken from the EU Waste Framework Directive

MicroCab Circular Automotive Design Philosophy

Circular Economy Aspects in the MicroCab Automotive Design Philosophy

At the recent consortium meeting in Koblenz, Germany, John Jostins, Managing Director at MicroCab and one of the ECOBULK partners, presented an overview of how MicroCab has integrated circular economy concepts into its own designs.

John and MicroCab have been working on new mobility and concept designs, focussing on lightweight fuel-cell driven solutions. Back in the 1990’s, John was prompted by poor air quality in his environment to start thinking about alternatives to the internal combustion engine. John’s experience in Motorsport had already prepared him to work on saving every possible gram on weight; which he combined with emerging fuel-cell technology in lightweight mobility concepts that MicroCab has been pioneering for the last 15 years.

Much of the current design and development work in the automotive industry seems to be focussed on increasing recyclability of the materials in the car. MicroCab, from early on, adopted a wider circular economy philosophy by focussing also on modularity. For example, they worked together with Lotus to develop a chassis design that could be used for multiple applications. The re-usability of the chassis spreads the costs over multiple product lines, but more importantly, allows for the possibility of switching out and upgrading every major component within the car. MicroCab estimates that from a structural perspective its current chassis design could be used for over 20 years – the challenge would be to maintain the inside of the car functional and up-to-date so that the vehicle remains useful and attractive.

To achieve such a long-lasting product life without the drawbacks of aging technologies (energy inefficiencies, usability limitations, etc) and styling, would truly open up the market for vehicles that could be provided as a service rather than a product.

The inside of the vehicle is also designed to fit in with the CE philosophy. Modularity is key, and every effort is made to ensure that assembly and disassembly is as simple as possible. By implementing IoT technologies and intelligent systems, the health and viability of all parts can be easily controlled and maintained. Beyond that, currently there are many options for the human-machine-interface (HMI) which allows people to control the car and its amenities; in the future, there will be many more. MicroCab anticipates the development of new interfaces and interaction concepts by maintaining an open-architecture interior design. Swappable components can be designed, using the latest technologies and interface concepts, that can be installed in the car as necessary, or desirable, during the lifespan of the vehicle.

John admits that circular enabled vehicles are more expensive to produce. But that can also be turned around – circular enabled vehicles are more valuable. The circular economy philosophy advocates maintaining the value within products and materials for as long as possible. Combining modularity and open-architecture offer opportunities to keep vehicles on the road for longer. It also opens the way to easier upgrades and refurbishments that can maintain the value of the car at a higher level for longer – instead of having to buy a new car to have a new more efficient engine, you can just replace the engine. MicroCab is currently exploring the Open Platform Architecture concept together with Mahle, the first results of which were on display at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show with the MEET (Mahle Energy Efficient Transport) project.

For more infromation on MicroCab and its activities, refer to their website – www.microcab.co.uk.