Thursday, 12 May 2011
End of Life Vehicles
Utter the words End of Life Vehicle (ELV), and many will immediately picture a scrap yard full of old cars leaking oil and water, been involved in a heavy impact, or are simply a gutted shell. But this is only part of the story.
The End of Life Vehicle Directive – 2000/53/EC (to give it’s full title) is a Europe-wide directive that was to be enforced in all member states by 21 April 2002. However, some countries failed to implement the legislation by the deadline and many took advantage of flexibility within the directive so that the ‘last owner’ of the vehicle would be responsible for disposal of an ELV until the end of 2006. From 1st January 2007 this responsibility passed to the vehicle manufacturers bringing all member states in line.
The directive includes various targets involving: environmental practices in the motor salvage industry, the prohibition of the use of various heavy metals in vehicles and the removal of various hazardous fluids and components in a safe manner. Additionally the directive seeks to promote and encourage the development of markets for recycled parts.
The target causing most discussion is that 95% of a car (by weight) must be reused, recycled or recovered by 2015.
These, and other regulations in the directive, close the loop, from design and build, through sale, service and use, to disposal and recycling. The vehicle manufacturer is now responsible for the whole life of the vehicle, not just design and sales.
So what has changed in vehicle design and build? Plenty. The directive dictates that the use of Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and Hexavalent Chromium is now prohibited except in certain applications (i.e. batteries) according to a list that will be regularly reviewed. This ensures that these materials do not become shredder residues and are not incinerated or disposed of in landfills.
The European Union recently reported that this section alone has reduced the use of hazardous substances in vehicle production by 90%.
Manufacturers have also had to provide the industry with all requisite dismantling information with particular emphasis on hazardous materials and have to use component and material coding standards established by the European Commission to identify each individual part for recycling purposes.
In the next 5-10 years designers will have to adapt to many issues including:
Greater environmental awareness resulting in lower vehicle weights and the use of alternative construction materials
New Legislation and industry standards, such as:
Reduction of emissions in production and use of the vehicle
Further increased environmental awareness
Lower production costs
Shorter lead times from design to manufacture
Looking closer at the first issue, vehicle weight is a major contributor to emissions, but it’s not all environmental, lighter cars have enhanced dynamics – handling, braking etc. The quest is on for designers to find components that meet all their requirements: are lighter and stronger, relatively inexpensive, environmentally attractive to produce and also recyclable in 2015.
It’s a tough challenge. For example, polymeric glazing (plastic glass) will be in use by a volume manufacturer within the next five years. Yes, it will be lighter than glass, however the plastics recycling market is currently not as advanced as the market for glass, so this has the potential to negatively impact the drive towards the 95% target.
Many manufacturers are already designing plastic components to be built using recycled materials and in many areas this is being achieved. Moreover, developments in shredder technology are starting to separate more of the various vehicle parts, resulting in less shredder residue going to landfill or incineration. Ultimately though the success of these developments rests upon the creation of a suitable marketplace willing to purchase the materials produced.
Outsourced parts are also a concern, as the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for the recyclability of all the components in their vehicles. Therefore they must ensure that all parts are recyclable within the terms of the ELV directive, i.e. do not contain any banned materials, are coded correctly and are also fit for the purpose for which they were designed.
The use of recycled material brings additional issues, including the availability and consistency of the material. It also requires the education of designers who may have little or no experience of working with recycled materials.
Concern remains over a number of areas both within and outside the ELV directive. For example, work must be done to develop effective recycled marketplaces. This has already started in the form of ongoing research, supported by the European Commission and many member states to investigate and develop recycled marketplaces and recycling processes in order to reach the 95% target.
The Commission also reported on the ELV process, specifically completing an impact assessment on the targets contained within the directive. It has concluded that there is no need to change these targets, despite fears that the current target of 95% by 2015 is unattainable.
The report highlights that any reduction in the targets will end the development of technology to treat the waste and that confirmation of the 2015 target will assist in removing current blockages to innovation. The assessment goes on to support the ELV Directive because it has triggered technological development in ELV treatment and stresses that continued development of treatment technologies will bring substantial environmental benefits.
You can find more details at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/elv_index.htm
As the worldwide vehicle market expands over the coming years environmental concerns are only going to increase, leading many areas of the world to follow the example set by the European Commission.
The work already completed in Europe has made this region a world leader in motor vehicle environmental and recycling activities, creating business opportunities by setting high, but in my opinion, achievable standards.