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Novelis participates in investigation of circular economy strategies for end-of-life vehicles in a pilot project of Audi

March 8, 2023
Audi cars in scrap yard

Disassembly of trial cars

Novelis recently participated in the MaterialLoop project of Audi, a pilot project aimed at exploring end-of-life recycling of vehicles. The joint project, which involved 15 partners from the automotive value chain, sought to build knowledge on how to implement a circular economy for vehicles.

For Novelis, driving a more circular economy includes closing the production loop (pre-consumer) and the end-of-life loop (post-consumer). Novelis has developed closed-loop recycling systems with some of the world’s largest car makers,capturing and recycling the aluminium production scrap from the automotive stamping process. The next frontier in automotive circularity is to explore, test and learn end-of life opportunities with customers.

Traditionally, at the end of their useful life, vehicles have been scrapped and the metal has been sent to landfill or downcycled to lesser grade applications, leading to the loss of valuable materials and creating environmental challenges. Changing this by looking into the feasibility and optimization of reusing post-consumer materials for new cars has gained importance on the sustainability agenda of auto manufacturers.

Audi’s pilot project involved the disassembly and separation of 100 vehicles to recover valuable materials such as aluminium, steel, glass, and plastics. As the world’s largest, most efficient, and technologically advanced aluminium recycler, Novelis contributed its expertise in the recycling of aluminium as well as its alloys, which are widely used in the automotive industry. By reusing secondary materials, the pilot project aimed to create a circular system that could not only reduce waste but also eliminate downcycling, and at the same time improve the carbon footprint of automotive production.

End-of-life recycling of aluminium offers great advantages for the automotive industry, as closing the loop preserves the value of the alloy, minimizes environmental impact, and creates a secure supply chain. Recycling aluminum requires 95 percent less energy to produce than primary aluminium, with commensurate savings in CO2 emissions. Already today, Novelis’ delivers automotive alloys which contain up to 80 percent recycled content.

At Novelis, we believe that a circular product system is key for decarbonization, and we work with our partners toward the goal of keeping all aluminium in the loop, recycling it into the same products again and again.

“We continuously advance our recycling processes and alloys to push the limits on how much recycled content we can use in our products,” explains Michael Hahne, Vice President & General Manager Automotive, Novelis Europe.

“Building a circular economy for aluminium is a focus for Novelis and returning end-of-life scrap to its source is key to become more efficient and, thus, collaborations and new ways of partnering will need to be established. Therefore it was important for us to participate in this project.”

To test the reuse of materials in new vehicles, Audi defined and piloted the further recycling process together with project partners from the recycling industry, the Audi supply chain, and academia. Beyond the technical feasibility of returning materials to the supply chain, improving future generations of vehicles’ ability to be recycled was also a focus of the project.
Through participation in the MaterialLoop project, Novelis gained valuable insights into current sorting processes and the improvements needed to increase the recovery rate of aluminium at the end-of-life stage.

Sorting efficiency and technology play a key role in ensuring the economic viability of recycling. Taking the separability of the materials into account as early as the design stage of vehicles will be a game changer. Novelis has been working on design for recycling concepts with many of its automotive customers.

The pilot project is just the beginning of a journey toward a circular economy for vehicles. As we move toward a more sustainable future, initiatives like this are critical to reducing waste, conserving resources, and protecting the environment.

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