German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz is pursuing the goal of increasingly decoupling resource consumption from growth in production output. The company says it is striving to increase the proportion of recycled materials in its car fleet to an average of 40 percent by 2030.
“On our journey to an all-electric future, we are rethinking the composition of all the materials in our vehicles. Every action counts when it comes to conserving resources. Through close collaboration with our supplier network, we are replacing raw fossil resources with pyrolysis oil made in part from recycled scrap tyres supplied by Mercedes-Benz. Components featuring this technology will enter series production in a number of our models as soon as this year. We anticipate being able to chemically recycle several hundred tonnes of scrap tyres from Mercedes-Benz vehicles every year and use the resulting plastic in our new vehicles. Together with our partners, we are closing the materials loop and actively driving the development of innovative recycling processes,” says Markus Schafer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes‑Benz Group AG, Chief Technology Officer, responsible for Development and Procurement.
Working with BASF and Pyrum Innovations
Mercedes-Benz is working with a number of partners in order to achieve a circular approach to scrap tyres. One route takes advantage of BASF’s chemical recycling process. The starting point is pyrolysis oil generated from used tyres by pyrolysis company Pyrum Innovations AG. BASF combines this with biomethane from agricultural waste.
Using both of these materials together, it is possible to create a virgin-quality plastic that is certified in accordance with the so-called mass balance approach. An independent certification confirms that the supplier replaced the quantity of fossil resources necessary for the final product with renewable resources and pyrolysis oil from scrap tyres. The cooperation between Mercedes-Benz and BASF marks the first use of pyrolysis oil from scrap tyres combined with biomethane.
The recovery of secondary materials reduces not only the use of fossil resources but also the carbon footprint of the resulting plastic. Furthermore, for the first time, the innovative recycled plastic has the same characteristics as virgin plastic produced from crude oil. This enables it to be applied quickly to ongoing production as a drop-in solution. At the same time, it fulfils Mercedes-Benz’s high quality demands, especially in respect of paintability and crash safety. These properties mean the process has the potential to replace a large number of vehicle components made from primary plastic.
This year, the EQE and S-Class will be the first series-production models to be equipped with bow door handles manufactured using a combination of biomethane and pyrolysis oil made from scrap tyres, instead of raw fossil resources. The S-Class will also come with a crash absorber based on this combination of raw materials. As part of the front end, the part creates a more even distribution of the forces acting on the other car in a frontal crash. Forthcoming models such as the EQE SUV will be equipped with bow door handles made from this innovative plastic as well. Looking to the future, the aim is to progressively increase the use of this more sustainable recycled material, and also to use chemical recycling in combination with the biomass balance approach for further plastic vehicle parts. The company is currently exploring suitable applications.
Innovative manufacturing process
In contrast to mechanical recycling, chemical recycling is particularly well suited to the manufacture of components subject to high quality and safety requirements. Chemical recycling is therefore not only a sensible counterpart to mechanical recycling, it also marks a decisive step towards the highest possible re‑use of scrap materials in a manner that is both ecologically and economically advantageous. By reducing the need for fossil resources, the process has the potential to decouple the production of high-quality plastics for a wide range of applications from crude-oil consumption.
Mercedes-Benz is pursuing a target of CO2-neutrality throughout the entire value chain in its new passenger car fleet by 2039. When it comes to sustainability, the company is especially focused on the conservation of resources.
The vehicle manufacturer’s ‘Design for Environment’ approach takes into account resource consumption from the very earliest stages of product development. Together with its partners, Mercedes-Benz is researching more sustainable material technologies and working intensively towards circularity. Combined with the biomass balance approach, chemical recycling is an innovative process that supports this.