is the way to treat resources when the before and after is taken into account as well.
Many components in electric cars require raw materials that are getting increasingly rare and expensive in the world markets, things like lithium, cobalt and rare earths. Since no vehicle drives forever and no component escapes wear and tear, it is important to consider even during production that the individual components should later be recyclable or reusable (Second Life). That decreases our dependence on important raw materials, protects the environment, saves money and can turn out to be a competitive advantage for manufacturers. Electric vehicles are a particularly good place to start with a comprehensive implementation of the principle of a recycling economy in the automotive sector since many aspects of these cars are being redesigned from the ground up anyway.
We need new production methods and smart design ideas to recycle materials used in electric vehicles efficiently. Materials, which will eventually be given priority for recycling are identified early. This is done on the basis of an overall ecological concept for energy and mass flows. Additionally, it is advisable to develop collection and recovery concepts, which correspond to a recovery rate that is as high as possible.
One option is to reuse specific components in other fields of application – batteries, for example. After an extensive period of use, they may no longer meet the demands of energy storage in electric cars but may still be useful for other applications. This requires elaborate testing procedures to analyze the aging behavior and state of individual vehicle components to thus determine the best time for them to be replaced. Disassembly or replacement should be as effortless as possible – that is true for both reuse and recycling of materials. This challenge needs to be considered as early as during the design of the vehicles.
Linking product development and recycling processes is of strategic importance to the German automotive and supply industry. It is advantageous in that it is already lowering costs today and will also make the industry more competitive in the future.