The European Composites Industry Association (EuCIA) welcomes the new ELV Directive’s objective to improve circularity in the automotive industry. We believe however that the benefits of composite materials and their positive impact in improving vehicle sustainability should be recognised and balanced with current challenges related to their waste management.
In the position paper New ELV Directive: Considerations from the Composites Value Chain Perspective, EuCIA provides clarifications regarding the dismantling, reuse and recycling of composite components and recommends some amendments to the draft proposal.
Composites and the automotive industry
The lightweighting benefits of composites have been exploited in the automotive industry for decades. Specifically, composite parts reduce vehicle weight and provide design freedom, leading to reduced fuel usage and CO2 emissions, and cost efficiency in medium and small car/truck manufacturing series. They deliver reliable performance and minimal maintenance cost. The rapidly growing electric vehicle market has an even greater demand for lightweight composite materials, where they offset battery weight and extend driving range.
Transportation has become one of the largest markets for composites, and further growth is forecast. These increasing volumes call for an adaptation of the waste management schemes for the end-of-life treatment of vehicles in Europe and the setting up of systems to dismantle, collect, reuse, repurpose and recycle composites.
EuCIA believes that composites are circular materials because at the end of their service life reuse is possible both through closed loop and open loop processes. Solutions for end-of-life composites are available but need further scale up and proliferation throughout Europe. New technologies are in development and are currently being validated in terms of economic and environmental sustainability.
Composites support the transition to net zero
The composites recycling supply chain already established throughout Europe is experiencing continued growth, stimulated by major industrial players, a multitude of start-ups and continent-wide academic research efforts. Hindering its development would be counterproductive in terms of economic growth, job creation and achievement of EU Green Deal objectives.
EuCIA believes that the substantial benefits of composite materials in improving the sustainability of vehicles during their use phase significantly outweigh their present recycling challenges, which are already being addressed and solved. By potentially discouraging the use of composites the new regulation could impact the automotive industry’s ability to design lighter weight, more fuel-efficient vehicles, in contradiction of the Green Deal objectives.
EuCIA calls for all stakeholders, OEMs, suppliers, waste collectors, as well as the relevant authorities, to collaborate to develop an EU-wide strategy for dealing with composite components in ELV vehicles to ensure that composite materials can fully support the automotive industry’s transition to net zero.
The position paper is available in the Publications section of the EuCIA website: https://eucia.eu/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/EuCIA-Position-paper-ELV-directive.pdf