The European Commission has proposed new policy measures to enhance the circularity of the automotive sector, with the aim of reducing its environmental impact. Empa researchers played a crucial role in shaping these provisions.
Currently, new vehicles contribute to around ten percent of plastic demand and nine percent of copper demand in the EU. Additionally, the automotive industry relies on over 60 different raw materials, including precious metals like palladium and rare earth elements, which are essential for electric drive motors in electric cars. As the shift towards electric vehicles gains momentum, the demand for these materials is predicted to increase significantly.
To address these challenges, the European Commission collaborated with Empa researchers, the German Öko-Institut e.V., and Chalmers University to evaluate measures to improve circularity in passenger cars. Based on their joint report, the Commission published a proposal for a new End-of-Life Vehicles Directive.
The proposed directive includes four key policy provisions. It requires electric vehicles to be designed in a way that allows easy removal of their electric drive motor for repair and reuse. Manufacturers will also need to disclose information about critical raw materials used in their vehicles and label relevant components accordingly. Moreover, the directive mandates the removal of the electric drive motor and certain electronic components before shredding end-of-life vehicles.
Empa scientist Charles Marmy highlighted the benefits of removing embedded electronics from end-of-life vehicles, which include significantly increased material recovery for secondary use and reduced CO2 emissions through limited waste incineration.
These proposed measures mark a significant step towards a more sustainable and circular automotive sector, addressing pressing environmental concerns linked to vehicle production and end-of-life treatment. Switzerland’s pioneering efforts in recycling embedded electronic devices serve as a positive example for other countries looking to promote sustainability in their automotive industries.