Audi optimistic about material recycling of steel

Audi has released some preliminary findings of its MaterialLoop project. In the end, this must lead to a closing material cycle used in its production lines. From the pilot, the German luxury brand has learned it can use steel coils to make inner door parts for its A4 model.

As European companies are gearing up for net-zero operations by 2050, carmakers are forging a path toward a circular model for car production. The biggest concern is using green steel at the source and reusing it afterward. Steel is the most important contributor to CO2 in car manufacturing. The process is also a form of hedging. A closed-loop system protects car manufacturers against price wars.

Inner door panels

Until April 2023, Audi is running a pilot project called MaterialLoop, involving 15 partners with whom the carmaker looks into reusing materials like steel, glass, and aluminum into the production chain of new cars.

The challenge is to make it meet the quality standards. Very few materials used in producing new vehicles are now recovered from old cars. Steel, for example, usually ends up as structural steel after end-of-life vehicle recycling.

Audi says the research has made it possible to produce steel coils containing 12% secondary materials. The material was sourced from hundred cars, including testing vehicles, which were shredded and sorted into different material groups, ranging from plastics to aluminum and steel. The carmaker plans to use such coils to make 15 000 inner door parts for the Audi A4 and claims that it will be able to increase the share of reused steel further.

After steel, Audi is also looking into plastic and glass recyclates. For the latter, it runs a pilot project that sorts unrepairable car windows and melts them down for manufacturing new glass plates. The current Q4 e-tron uses these.

Volkswagen has joined

Plastic is the second most carbon-intensive material in car manufacturing. Audi manages this in a separate project called PlasticLoop. Through a chemical process, old plastics are dismantled from attached foreign materials, like metal clips, and converted into pyrolysis oil, the source material for making new plastic granulates. This technology is already used for making seatbelt buckle covers in the Q8 e-tron.

The MaterialLoop project was kickstarted in the spring of last year. It also involves the sister brand Volkswagen and well-known suppliers like Saint-Gobain, Alumetal, HKS, and TSR. Audi CEO Markus Duesmann commented: “It is our goal to recover as many materials as possible at a high level of quality and reuse them in production.” However, Audi hasn’t communicated how the MaterialLoop project will progress after the deadline.


Ready to join the conversation?

You must be an active subscriber to leave a comment.

Subscribe Today

You Might Also Like

%d bloggers like this: