Ingolstadt, March 10, 2023 – With its joint project ”MaterialLoop”, Audi is taking the next step toward closing more material cycles in the automotive industry. Together with 15 partners from the research, recycling, and supplier sectors, the brand with the four rings is looking into the reuse of so-called post-consumer materials, which are taken from customer vehicles at the end of their lifecycle, from the automotive sector for the production of new cars. As part of Audi’s circular economy strategy, the project provides valuable insight on how a circular economy can be put into practice.
Up to now, very few of the materials used in the production of new vehicles are recovered from old cars. Steel, for example, usually ends up as structural steel after end-of-life vehicle recycling. Audi wants to change that by reusing secondary materials taken from end-of-life vehicles in the production of new cars. Downcycling, which a loss of quality in materials resulting from the recycling process, is to be avoided. “The MaterialLoop project underscores our ambitious vision to operate a highly efficient circular economy concept for end-of-life vehicles,” says Audi CEO Markus Duesmann. “It is our goal to recover as many materials as possible at a high level of quality and reuse them in production. This will save valuable primary materials and lower the products’ ecological footprint. Simultaneously, direct access to secondary materials can contribute to increased security of supply. Raw materials would no longer have to be extracted.”
Back in October 2022, 100 vehicles, including among others former development cars, were dismantled as part of the joint MaterialLoop project. The targeted disassembly of individual components alone enabled the retention of high-quality secondary materials such as larger plastic pieces for recycling. After disassembly, the remaining car bodies were shredded and sorted into material groups comprising steel, aluminum, plastic, and glass, in cooperation with the partner companies. With the aim of testing the reuse of such materials in the production of new cars, Audi defined and piloted the further recycling process together with project partners from the recycling industry, the Audi supply chain, and academia.
“Our emphasis on cycles within the industry enables us to use our products and the materials they’re made from for as long as possible. Our vision is to rely less on secondary materials from other industries in the future”, explains Johanna Klewitz, head of supply chain sustainability at Audi. Besides the technical feasibility of returning materials in the Audi supply chain, improving future generations of Audi vehicles’ ability to be recycled is also in focus. The project is part of Audi’s circular economy strategy and delivers valuable insights into implementing a circular economy in practice. Dennis Meinen, expert for circular economy at Audi: “At its core, circular economy is about handling resources responsibly. Longevity, repairability, and, indeed, our products’ ability to be recycled are thus all in focus.”