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02-12-2022 | Automotive Manufacturing | News | Article

The automotive industry focuses on sustainability

Authors: Christiane Köllner, Sven Eisenkraemer

5 min reading time

Editor's note: This article is an automated translation. You can find the original text in German here.

For the second time, experts discussed sustainable projects in the automotive industry at the ATZ Digital Conference "Sustainability in Automotive". We have compiled selected contents of the conference here.

2nd Digital Conference Sustainability in Automotive

Natural resources are becoming scarcer, and sustainable business practices are becoming more important in all areas. In the automotive industry, this means on the one hand that vehicles are operated with sustainably produced energy sources, and on the other hand that components and materials are produced and recycled in a climate-friendly and environmentally friendly manner. In the virtual ATZlive conference Sustainability in Automotive 2022, current developments in the areas of "Concepts – Production – Supply Chain – Business Models" will be presented and the next steps discussed. The Wiesbaden-based online team Springer Professional bundles selected contents of the 2nd International ATZ Digital Conference Sustainability in the article. (chk)

Transparent Battery Supply Chains

Sustainability and Resilience for the EV Battery Supply Chain, Dr. Philipp Seidel, Arthur D. Little: The sustainability of electric car battery production from mining to end of life is the topic of this presentation. Batteries are the technology that is currently best available to store energy for mobility as efficiently as possible. However, batteries are not per se environmentally friendly. In an analysis, the consulting firm Arthur D. Little identified the most important problems in the battery supply chain. The sustainability of EV batteries starts with the choice of size, format, chemistry and materials, and ends with disassembly and recycling. Companies along the supply chain should prepare for the flexibility required to absorb changing conditions. Similarly, only a closed loop of battery materials will enable true sustainability. Seidel calls for greater transparency and a holistic understanding of the battery supply chain to help improve the environmental performance of traction batteries. (sve) 

Read more about transformation in the automotive industry in Philipp Seidel's guest commentary A Last Call for Europe's Car Industry in ATZelectronics worldwide 10-2020.

Secondary materials are a key element

Thinking about the Whole Life Cycle at the Very Beginning of Vehicle Development, Dr. Martin Kunst, Head of Metal Materials, BMW Group: In the second presentation, Martin Kunst talks about why sustainability is at the heart of BMW's strategy and how it encompasses all relevant aspects, from the supply chain to production and the product life cycle. He said the BMW Group is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and eventually achieving climate neutrality. The use of materials with a low carbon footprint is a key element in achieving these goals, he said. Indeed, according to Kunst, the production of automotive materials such as aluminum, steel and plastics account for nearly two-thirds of the CO2e emissions in the supply chain of a mid-sized battery electric vehicle. Secondary materials play an important role in reducing these emissions, he said. For example, secondary aluminum can reduce CO2e emissions in the supply chain by a factor of 4 to 6 compared to primary aluminum, he said. A BMW iX, for example, carries about 60 kg of recycled plastic. To keep recycled materials in the loop and increase the availability of high-quality secondary materials, BMW embedded the principles of the circular and closed-loop economy into its development process and supported the development of optimized material processing methods at its suppliers, he said. (sve) 

Optimized Life Cycle Assessment of Vehicle Carpets in BEVs

Philippe Godano and Dr. Laura Gottardo of Autoneum Management address the sustainability of vehicle carpet systems in their presentation Using LCA to Optimize the Sustainability of BEV Main Floor Carpets. For example, a vehicle's main floor carpet can be tufted or made of needlepunch fleece with various underlay materials such as cotton, polyester felt or polyurethane foam, depending on the acoustic concept chosen. The life cycle assessment of a single component enables the comparison of the potential different technologies and ultimately the development of a performance- and sustainability-optimized product to meet the specific requirements of BEVs. In this context, the CO2e footprint is mainly determined by the choice of materials, and the impact of logistics is almost negligible. Polyester in particular is a very versatile material, available in large quantities both as virgin material and as recycled material. It is compatible with recycling processes, which in turn reduces waste and ensures material supply. Monomaterial carpet solutions would also improve sustainability. (chk) 

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Freudenberg Performance Materials has a wide range of products for the automotive industry in its portfolio. In addition to car headliners, special friction inserts, backing for vehicle carpets, cargo screens and gas diffusion layers for fuel cells, the manufacturer of technical textiles also specializes in developing acoustic solutions, as Angela Weik und Jan-Hendrik Kettemann explain in the ATZ interview.

The vehicle as a sum of modular parts

How can vehicles become more sustainable? In his presentation Modular Structures for Reuse, Dr. Stefan Caba, Head of Innovation Field Sustainable Vehicle Development at Edag Engineering, introduces the idea of reusing vehicle components or recycling used parts to create a circular product life cycle. However, vehicles would have to be specially designed for this purpose. This means that not only assembly but also disassembly must be planned. Here, releasable joining would be a key factor. In particular, the extended service life of parts is changing the choice of materials toward more durable solutions, for example toward carbon fiber-reinforced plastics. In this context, vehicles should be viewed as a sum of modular parts. Modular vehicles could offer significant emission reductions, as they could be used for other applications after an initial life cycle. (chk) 

Non-contact coating thickness measurement improves sustainability

Torsten Schwarz, Senior Sales & Key Account Manager at Coatmaster, explains in his presentation Non-contact Coating Thickness Measurement for Sustainable Use of Resources that around 80 % of automotive components are coated to achieve certain decorative or functional properties. However, these properties can only be achieved if the necessary coating thickness is maintained. Therefore, it is essential to measure the coating thickness during production with the required accuracy. Too much applied material means waste and causes unnecessary costs in addition to higher material consumption. Too little coating thickness could lead to earlier failure of the component. In his presentation, Schwarz explains how the use of Coatmaster coating thickness gauges can have a positive impact on sustainability. The ultimate goal for greater sustainability, he says, is to optimize production processes for automotive components and minimize scrap and rework. (chk) 

Panel discussion: Sustainability requires cooperation

On our own: The Sustainability Award in Automotive - apply now! 

Due to their importance for the economy and society, the automotive industry and mobility providers bear special responsibility for achieving climate protection and general sustainability goals. Legislators are increasingly formalizing this responsibility in stricter requirements. But consumers and investors are also increasingly evaluating companies, solutions and products from a sustainability perspective. In this context, not only environmental and climate protection play a central role, but also social and governance aspects are becoming increasingly important.

The Sustainability Award in Automotive, which is run jointly by the ATZ/MTZ Group and sustainability and industry experts from the consultancy Arthur D. Little, honors outstanding examples of sustainable solutions in mobility.

For the 2023 edition of the competition for companies, the application phase runs until January 23, 2023. You can find more information about the award here on our awards page.

Award Page of Arthur D. Little

Find all information about the award on the award page of Arthur D. Little.

direct to the award page at

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