Audi's Vorsprung durch Technik means a lot of recycling

Audi has announced that it has fully reached the EU's threshold of recyclability and reusability for new vehicles, something that will be mandatory from mid-2010 on. The "EU Directive 2005/64/EC" states that all vehicles should be 85 percent recyclable and 95 percent reusable. In the case of the Audi, the 10 percent difference is explained because some plastics can be used as fuel for energy generation. This follows Seat and Volkswagen's similar announcements and makes that warning of 3.65 billion tons of car scraps seem a little less ominous.
As with most German certifications, a TÜV office (in the city of Dienst) confirmed Audi's statements. The press release (which you will find after the jump) also explains how the recycling of a car must be considered from the earlier phases of a car design, answering questions as "how much steel is used" and "what type of plastics". The answers are quite detailed. For instance, 13.3 percent of an Audi A4 consists of light alloys such as aluminium, plastics account for 14.3 percent, glass for 2.2 percent and processed polymers for 1.7 percent.

European countries are currently deploying recycling centers which should be able to dismantle old cars and, of course, Germany is the leader in this field. The lessons learned at these centers will allow some car recyclers to ensure that virtually no part of a car will be thrown away after its lifecycle.

[Source: Audi]
"Vorsprung durch Technik" includes recycling
  • Audi the first major manufacturer to meet future EU Directive
  • All models 85% recyclable and 95% recoverable
Audi applies the maxim of Vorsprung durch Technik equally to the protection of the environment. AUDI AG is the first and to date only major car manufacturer that already meets the tough "EU Directive 2005/64/EC on the type approval of motor vehicles with regard to their reusability, recyclability and recoverability" with its current model range.

This directive does not take effect until mid-2010 for all new vehicles. From then, new vehicles must be at least 85 percent recyclable and be up to 95 percent recoverable. The figure of 85 percent refers to the degree to which the recycled materials are returned to the production process. A further 10 percent of the vehicle is used for energy generation.

As confirmed by Technische Dienst TÜV SÜD Automotive GmbH and the Federal Motor Vehicle Registration Agency, Audi already meets these requirements. All models sold by the brand with the four rings already meet the directive's tough recycling standards.

Protecting the environment during the development and production of vehicles is immensely important at Audi. And recycling is a key issue here. As soon as development of a new vehicle starts, its developers work to ensure that it will be recoverable at the end of its useful life. During the development process, every model is put through exhaustive recycling tests and material analyses prior to its market launch.

"We recognised early on that knowing precisely what materials have gone into a vehicle is vitally important for its recycling," commented Uwe Heil, responsible for Recycling within Audi's Technical Development Division. "Because of the growing volume of data and the complexity of the issue, as far back as 2000 we teamed up with Group Research to develop a vehicle recycling database. It now ranks as the benchmark in the car industry," added Heil.

How much steel and iron does the new Audi A4 contain? Which plastics are used in the Audi A3? Which components contain which materials? Answers to such questions ensure that a car will be highly recoverable at the end of its useful life.

To meet the EU directive, the manufacturer has to put itself forward for double scrutiny. The preliminary examination involves checking the processes. It investigates whether the necessary arrangements for implementing the requirements have been made.

For example, measures for implementing recycling requirements, compliance with prohibitions on the use of heavy metals and the identification of polymers and elastomers are checked. The Audi Group, with its production operations at AUDI AG, quattro GmbH and AUDI HUNGARIA MOTOR Kft., received a glowing report in every single area.

Only if the results of the preliminary examination are positive can type approval proper take place. The recyclability ratio for each individual model is determined here. The comprehensive database generated from many years of recycling investigations proved an advantage.

It indicates down to the very gram which material is used where and in what quantities in an Audi model. For example, 13.3 percent of a new Audi A4 consists of light alloys such as aluminium, plastics account for 14.3 percent, glass for 2.2 percent and processed polymers for 1.7 percent.

These examples highlight the precision with which a car is stripped down into its component parts. Broadly speaking, the material content of the new Audi A4 can be categorised into nine groups, each of which can in turn be subdivided. The 14.3 percent plastics encompasses a great variety of different grades of plastic. The 3.26 kilograms of polyoxyxmethylene are as recorded as meticulously as the 31.28 kilograms of polypropylene.

Audi also demonstrates huge commitment in the field of reprocessing technology, which permits the recovery of valuable secondary raw materials. The "VW-SiCon process" generates user-oriented flows of materials by means of mechanical processing.

It uses methods of crushing, classification and sorting based on physical parameters such as density, grain shape, magnetisability, electrical conductivity and optical properties. The Volkswagen-SiCon process was presented with the "European Business Award for the Environment" by the EU Commission in 2006.

A similar principle applies to the use of recycled materials. Both ferrous and non-ferrous metals and also plastics are now used in recycled form. To promote the use of recycled materials, the Ingolstadt-based car manufacturer has approved their use for virtually all components. Care is taken to ensure that no variation in quality occurs. This paves the way for an effective recycling system. The idea of the materials cycle permeates both design and production.

Audi is a strong advocate of environmental protection away from its production plants, too. For example, since 1999 the VW Group has regularly been extending invitations to seminars where the topic of "recycling and recovering vehicles" is promoted both among employees and among suppliers and development partners.

End-of-life vehicle takeback and recycling at Audi

What happens to the end-of-life vehicle

  • Subject to the legal requirements being met, e.g. the vehicle being intact, it is possible to hand in the vehicle free of charge at the end of its life at one of more than 90 Audi takeback points.
  • The car is drained and dismantled there.
  • To optimise this process, the IDIS database provides comprehensive information on how to handle the vehicles in an environmentally friendly, expert way, e.g. for the safe removal of operating fluids and batteries. It also indicates what special tools may be required.
  • Recovery: steel, iron, copper, aluminium and other materials are reprocessed into valuable secondary raw materials.

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