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Sustainability in Automotive 2023

07-12-2023 – Virtually at your workplace

Sustainability in Automotive 2022

Concepts – Production – Supply Chain – Business Models

2nd International ATZ Digital Conference on Sustainability

01-12-2022 – virtually at your workplace

Main subject areas

Importance of sustainability in the automotive industry

Exemplary sustainability projects

Development steps in construction and production

Author: Alexander Heintzel

Conference Report

Sustainability Means Thinking in the Entire Life Cycle

For the second time, experts discussed sustainable strategies and projects in the automotive industry. The International ATZ Digital Conference Sustainability in Automotive took place on December 1, 2022 virtually.

Due to their importance for the economy and society, the automotive industry and mobility providers bear special responsibility for achieving climate protection and general sustainability goals. Legislators are increasingly formalizing this responsibility in stricter specifications. But consumers and investors are also evaluating companies more and more, solutions and products in terms of sustainability. Not only environmental and climate protection play a central role, but also social aspects and corporate governance are also becoming increasingly relevant. The overall life cycle of a product, from raw material extraction through production and service life to recycling, is becoming increasingly crucial. The digital ATZ conference Sustainability in Automotive presented again some recent developments in the industry.

In his opening speech, Philipp Seidel (Arthur D. Little, ADL) pointed out the significantly increasing battery demand globally: “The transport sector and electric vehicles are a major driver for this demand.” Optimizing the ESG footprint asks for a delicate balance of localized battery production and advantages of a global value chain. Finally, only a closed loop of battery materials will enable true sustainability by reducing needs for virgin raw materials and energy. “All those steps toward an improved sustainability need to begin with a holistic understanding of the EV battery supply chain and increased transparency”, stated Seidel.

Martin Kunst (BMW) made a statement regarding the whole life cycle at the very beginning of vehicle development. “Using materials with a low carbon dioxide footprint is a key element for achieving climate targets”, he said. “The production of automotive materials like aluminum, steel and plastics accounts for almost two-thirds of the equivalent CO2 emissions in the supply chain of a mid-size BEV. For example, secondary aluminum can reduce the equivalent CO2 emissions in the supply chain by a factor of 4 to 6 compared to primary aluminum”, Kunst claimed. To keep recycled materials in the loop and increase the availability of high-quality secondary materials, principles of circular economy and design for circularity are embedded in the development process within BMW.

Sustainability does not only concern complete processes, but of course also single components. For example, Laura Gottardo und Philippe Godano (Autoneum) showed how a Life-cycle Analysis (LCA) can be used optimize the sustainability of BEV main floor carpets.“ An LCA of a single component enables the comparison of the potential different technologies and eventually the engineering of a performance and sustainability optimized product answering the specific needs of BEVs”, stated the speakers.

In his lecture, Thorsten Schwartz (Coatmaster) also dealt with components. Approximately 80 % of all parts in vehicles are coated to achieve certain decorative or functional properties, which can only be fulfilled if the coating thickness is precisely maintained according to the specifications of the coating material manufacturers. Schwartz: “Measuring the coating thickness during production with the necessary accuracy is essential.” He showed, how it is possible to positively influence sustainability in many ways by using coating thickness gauges.

Stefan Caba (Edag) showed, how not only the assembly, but also the disassembly of vehicles must be planned to achieve sustainability. Caba: “The extended life span of parts in particular changes the selection of materials to more durable solutions. The key factor is rethinking the vehicle as a sum of modular parts.”

During a short panel discussion at the end of the conference Philipp Seidel (ADL), Philippe Godano (Autoneum) and Thorsten Schwartz (Coatmaster) discussed some central points on sustainability in the automotive industry. “We see in the automotive industry since 2019”, said Seidel, “a huge transition which comes with also huge investments in electric mobility. And this is the one big challenge that all automotive OEMs and suppliers have to face and where all the available resources go into.” According to the consulting specialist a lot has been done already, but for sure the industry is probably not there yet where it should be in the end. “I think at one point we will have to invest”, added Godano, “but I think there’s a lot of things that you can do without new piece of machinery by already working out on better materials, green electricity and so on”.

According to Seidel investments in more sustainability are really the key but are nothing the automotive industry could do on its own. “What we see, for example, especially for electric mobility, is that formerly separate industries need to work together to make this new ecosystem work. And that’s something new”, he stated. On a company level, Godano feels that more targets are needed, especially sustainability targets. The second aspect, as he pointed out, “is the culture and the understanding of the benefits, because I think the sustainability is not just a burden but also improving your resilience”.

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