The Director of a UK-based plastics recycler is urging automotive engineers and manufacturers to consider “simpler” materials over high-performance composites at the initial design stage, so that new motor vehicles can be more readily recycled at the end of their lives.
With no currently viable recycling routes for many of the recently developed materials used in modern lightweight vehicles, Keith Freegard, Director of Axion Polymers, believes these vehicle components and body parts “might only be suitable for energy-from-waste schemes at end of life.”
Freegard is calling on the sector to look at locally-sourced, sustainable options first, such as innovative, highly-specified 100 percent recycled polymers derived from a stable long-term supply of end-of-life vehicles.
These closed-loop plastics offer significant carbon savings of between 50 and 75 percent when compared with virgin polymers, an important factor when the embedded carbon cost from selecting what he calls “fancy” technical materials, which can become a major proportion of a low-carbon vehicle’s total life-cycle footprint.
“While I applaud the use of novel new materials to make lightweight motor vehicle bodies and structural components for cars, my challenge to materials scientists and designers is to think about the simpler alternatives: mono-materials that save carbon and can be eventually recovered for re-use at end of life,” said Freegard.
“It is tempting to use more unusual composite and reinforced fibre products that can make exciting lightweight components. Yet there appears to be scant regard given to how these very technical, high-performing and complicated composites are treated at the end of a vehicle’s life as they currently cannot be recycled.”
He added: “In my view, our rapidly-growing automotive sector offers tremendous opportunity for innovate thinking and product design with the development of electric and hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles requiring completely new concepts. Crucially, the potential for incorporating sustainably-sourced recovered materials, that can offer cost savings in new components, should not be overlooked.”
Freegard will be participating in the Materials Innovation Showcase organised by the Knowledge Transfer Network at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2015 in September, where he will explain how Axion’s range of ‘Axpoly’100 percent recycled engineering polymers can help to satisfy the design requirement of the next generation of low carbon vehicles.