ZEvRA develops solutions for a recyclable electric vehicle and increases the use of recycled materials

According to EU guidelines, new vehicles should be manufactured almost entirely from recycled, reworked, refurbished, repaired or reused parts by 2035 and the consumption of new raw materials for car production should be close to zero. This corresponds to a saving of over 1.5 tonnes of material per vehicle. At the same time, new vehicles must continue to fulfil all crash safety requirements and meet the quality demands of customers. Under the leadership of the Fraunhofer IWU, a consortium of 28 European partners, including five car manufacturers, is now showing the way to consistently resource-saving production in the EU project ZEvRA. The partners want to develop a virtual circular car concept based on a popular series model from Skoda; for demonstration purposes, they will build a vehicle with parts made from recycled materials that meet the criteria of the circular economy.

Since last year, it has been clear that from 2035, only new vehicles whose operation causes no CO2 emissions may be sold in the EU. In order for the carbon footprint of battery electric vehicles to be correct – their production is associated with significantly higher CO2 emissions than the production of cars with petrol or diesel engines – the entire value chain must be considered: from the provision of materials and production to the processes at the end of the product’s life. To this end, ZEvRA will develop a methodology for circular design and a holistic life cycle assessment. It will look at the main materials that make up more than 84% of the material mix of a typical electric vehicle: steel, aluminium (rolled, cast and foamed), thermoplastic composites, plastics, glass, tyres and rare earths. The solutions developed will be supported by a range of digital tools to ensure recyclability, traceability and the virtual integration of components into a fully reproducible vehicle. Thanks to ZEvRA, the CO2 footprint per vehicle is to be reduced by at least 25 per cent in the future.

Turning old into new‘ proportion reaches 100 per cent for some material groups

In order to achieve the goal of vehicle parts without new raw materials, numerous materials must fulfil a 100 percent reuse quota. This applies, for example, to steel and all aluminium alloys for rolled, cast and aluminium foam parts. This applies, for example, to steel and all aluminium alloys for rolled, cast and aluminium foam parts. Even for the production of new tyres, almost exclusively secondary raw materials are to be used – including for the tread. It is already clear today that circular design, i.e. the consideration of recycling criteria in the development of new parts, makes the most important contribution to a sustainable environmental and climate footprint.

ZEvRA: a strong alliance for a circular economy in the European automotive industry

In the EU project ZEvRA (Zero Emission electric vehicles enabled by haRmonised circulArity), car manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Skoda, Stellantis (including Peugeot, Citroën and Opel) and major suppliers (including Faurecia and Continental) have committed themselves to ambitious sustainability goals. Important findings and results of the project, which is scheduled to run until the end of 2026, can thus be broadly anchored in the automotive industry and have an impact.

Core expertise in resource efficiency: Fraunhofer IWU coordinates ZEvRA

The Chemnitz-based institute’s research and development activities focus on energy and resource efficiency in the manufacturing industry. In the field of circular economy, it works on the design and manufacturing requirements for a second or third product life for as many products as possible. At ZEvRA, IWU contributes its extensive expertise in repurposing processes for steel components, the use of aluminium recyclates for wrought, cast and foam components as well as the design-accompanying cycle assessment of components.

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