BMW focuses on CO2 reduction and circular economy with Neue Klasse

Circular economy

Germany The BMW Group is speeding up its efforts to address climate change.

With the introduction of the Neue Klasse, the corporation is strengthening its self-defined objectives, published in the summer of last year, to considerably reduce CO2 emissions while simultaneously committing to a clear course that supports the 1.5 degree target for global warming restriction. The BMW Group will also significantly boost its use of secondary materials under the Neue Klasse, with a strong emphasis on the principles of the circular economy, while simultaneously fostering improved framework conditions for the establishment of a secondary materials market.

To reduce CO2 emissions even further, the focus is on vehicle use, which accounts for 70% of the BMW Group’s CO2 footprint. CO2 emissions per vehicle and kilometer traveled will be cut in half by 2030 compared to 2019. When comparing the commitment of all manufacturers to combatting climate change, it is best to look at the entire life cycle of a vehicle, including production and the upstream supply chain. In this area, the BMW Group intends to reduce CO2 emissions per car by at least 40%.

The BMW Group is the first German automaker to join the Science Based Targets Initiative’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C and is committed to achieving full climate neutrality across the entire value chain by 2050 at the latest. As a result, the company is also a member of the international Race to Zero Initiative. The organization is certain that this can be accomplished through innovation rather than a blanket prohibition on individual technology.

Electric mobility is the most powerful force on our path to carbon neutrality, with the BMW Group’s Neue Klasse likely to deliver substantial further market impetus. Over the next ten years or so, the business plans to put ten million all-electric vehicles on the road. At least half of global BMW Group sales will be all-electric vehicles as early as 2030, with the MINI brand delivering exclusively all-electric vehicles beginning in 2030.

Beyond green electricity

BMW Group is convinced that just increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road will not result in more environmentally responsible mobility. The company recognizes the need of reducing the usage of primary materials, as well as the associated environmentally detrimental resource exploitation and often CO2-intensive processing – particularly in the automotive industry, which is one of the most resource-intensive industries.

As the number of battery-powered vehicles grows, so does the need for several commodities such as cobalt, nickel, and aluminum, which are needed for the vehicles’ high-voltage batteries. However, there is significant potential for material reuse in the context of a circular economy.

The quantity of secondary nickel used in the BMW iX’s high-voltage battery is already as high as 50%, with the battery container comprising up to 30% secondary aluminum. The BMW Group intends to raise these values even higher for future product generations.

Secondary material supply is significantly less CO2-intensive than primary material supply and can greatly reduce CO2 footprint, particularly within the supply chain. In the case of secondary aluminum, the CO2 savings relative to primary material is roughly 4 to 6, whereas steel and thermoplastics are approximately 2 to 5.

The extraction of resources for primary materials, notably mining, has a substantial influence on ecosystems’ basic regeneration ability. By increasing the use of secondary materials, this impact can be considerably decreased.

Mining and trade in conflict materials may result in violations of environmental and social standards. To mitigate this risk, the BMW Group has implemented a number of initiatives, including membership in the Responsible Minerals Initiative. However, the most effective risk-aversion method is to reduce the mining of such fundamental resources.

‘Secondary First’

The BMW Group intends to dramatically increase the percentage of secondary materials in its vehicles as part of its holistic approach to sustainability. Current automobiles are made with over 30% recycled and recyclable materials on average. BMW Group intends to gradually increase this proportion to 50% under the “Secondary First” strategy.

Of course, it is critical that the materials meet the same high requirements as primary materials in terms of quality, safety, and reliability – and so it is critical that the market availability of such high-quality materials increases significantly. Cross-industry approaches and governmental actions are required to achieve this.

Partnership with BASF and the ALBA Group

Secondary materials are increasingly being employed in BMW Group automobiles as part of the supply chain and based on market availability. Furthermore, the company, in collaboration with its partners, is providing significant impetus in the development of secondary materials. One example is the company’s collaboration with BASF and the ALBA Group on a pilot initiative to boost the recycling of plastics used in automobiles.

The project’s goal is to limit the consumption of primary plastics through a comprehensive recycling system. To that purpose, the ALBA Group examines end-of-life BMW Group automobiles to determine whether plastic may be reused from car to car. In a subsequent phase, BASF determines if chemical recycling of the pre-sorted waste may be used to produce pyrolysis oil. This can then be used to create new plastic items. A new door trim or other component could be made from a used instrument panel in the future, for example.

To obtain better recycling rates while simultaneously ensuring the high quality of secondary materials, the materials must be removed in their purest form as early in the recycling process as possible. For example, in order to avoid mixing steel and copper from the wire harnesses in the automobiles, the onboard wiring systems must be easily removed. If this mixing occurs, the secondary steel loses its essential material qualities and thus no longer fulfills the car industry’s stringent safety standards. To facilitate this early and easy extraction of materials, the interior of a car must increasingly be composed of monomaterials, so that as much as possible may be transferred back into the useful material cycle towards the end of the automobile’s existence. Essentially, lowering the quantity of materials can aid in the improvement of recycled material quality. Vehicles are currently made up of 8,000 to 10,000 distinct materials.

To accomplish this, the BMW Group is now focused on a ‘Circular Design’ concept, which is intended to ensure vehicles’ inexpensive dismantle capacity. It is critical that disassembly of the vehicle and its constituent components be quick and cost-effective in order to keep secondary material pricing competitive. It all begins with the vehicle’s construction, which must be done in such a way that materials may be removed at the end of the vehicle’s service life without different types of material being mixed together.