Thematic Topic: Cars & The Circular Economy, How to go about it?

The circular economy model assumes a static technology situation. But what happens when new technologies and materials are introduced? What kind of circular economy loop would work with cars? And would the circular economy discourage innovating?

The steel from which most cars are made is very recyclable. But if you build a circular economy system around that, it assumes cars are made of steel.

  • The Renault Espace has essentially galvanised steel framework onto which there are plastic panels. It’s a hybrid technology. Audi’s Jaguar also makes largely aluminium cars. A lot of companies now make aluminium cars. Aluminium is also recyclable, so you need to find demand for steel and aluminium.

  • Then you get technologies like the BMW i3. It’s built on an aluminum platform and has a carbon fibre superstructure. You can only grind carbon fibre down and use the powder you get as a filler for other products. But a structure like that of the BMW i3 should last 40 or 50 years without too many problems. So you get all those trade-offs.

  • We’re in the middle of transitioning from internal combustion engines to electric motors. You can melt internal combustion engines down and turn them into new castings either out of cast iron or aluminium, but do you necessarily have a demand for whatever it produces?

How do we understand your circular economy?
What would work for cars? Are we looking at the circularity within one product, within one product, one in one industry, within one sector, within a locality, and within a region?

  • Close-loop homes in reuse and recycling. But what about reducing?

  • Are material innovations discouraged? Lithium, for example, is a classic with lithium batteries. But if you change the battery technology to another one, what do you do with all the waste lithium from the older batteries? From the current crop of cars? How do you accommodate that?

  • What area would the loop operate in? A closed loop needs to be more specific as to whether the loop should be closed within a single product type, e.g. mobile phones, computers, or cars. Or within one sector? e.g., construction or within one economy. And if so, is that a local, regional or national economy?

ping @ivan