The share of electrical and electronic systems (EES) in vehicles is steadily growing, in terms of both material utilisation and value. These systems offer benefits for safety, comfort and environmental performance. The European Directive on end-of-life vehicles (2000/53/EC) sets requirements for the end-of-life treatment and the design of vehicles, which thereby also includes automotive EES.
In this context, the SEES project aimed to improve the present design of automotive EES and to analyse innovative end-of-life processes, contributing towards the overarching goal of sustainability. EES materials include electronics containing copper and precious metals as well as regulated substances (e.g. lead in solder) and different kinds of plastics which have a potential value for recycling/recovery. In the present situation the EES remains in the car when it enters the shredding process and then is separated afterwards by hand. Alternative end-of-life options to be studied include disassembly of EES components for reuse/recycling and advanced post-shredder recycling of the shredding residues. Optimum end-of-life scenarios for automotive EES (as well as for the whole car) have to take into account the whole life cycle of the product without shifting problems from the end-of-life phase to other life-cycle phases.
The main objective of the SEES project was to develop sustainable, clean, cost- and eco-effective electrical and electronic system (EES) prototypes and dismantling/recycling processes to increase the vehicle recovery/reuse rate. SEES studies focus on the EES materials to identify sustainable end-of-life scenarios and to develop new EES design concepts to contribute towards sustainability.
Innovative EES and plastic recycling schemes were to be developed considering economic and environmental aspects over the whole life cycle. The new EES design concept will include prototyping specific functions or parts. The new design concept was not limited to improve end-of-life aspects because use phase and production proved to be much more relevant from a life-cycle perspective.
During the project, results from environmental and dismantling studies demonstrated the limited improvement potential by focusing on dismantling and end-of-life aspects of EES. Therefore, the focus of the objectives was switched slightly from a focus on end-of-life related actions to a more holistic approach covering the whole life cycle as described above.
The main SEES deliverables were:
- integrated end-of-life assessment of automotive EES;
- economic and environmental assessment including different design options and end-of-life scenarios;
- software prototype to support decisions on EES designs and recycling scenarios;
- eco-design guidelines to improve future designs of automotive EES;
- dismantling and shredding manuals for automotive EES;
- demonstration and application of new end-of-life technologies for EES;
- new EES design concept and prototypes to be developed, tested and validated;
- dissemination and exploitation of all SEES results.
The project supported the objectives of the Sustainable Surface Transport Priority providing strategies and processes to clean dismantling and recycling of vehicles. SEES improved the competitiveness of the recycling value chain (from collectors, shredders, dismantlers to EES/plastics/metal recyclers), most of them SMEs. It also increased the competitiveness of EES manufacturers due to the benefit of the 'recyclable' product and reduces the costs associated with end-of-life car treatment. SEES helped to minimise life cycle impacts, raw material consumption and waste disposal (landfill/incineration). Findings were communicated inside and outside the project consortium to improve the skills of the
The section below lists the activities undertaken and the research methods employed in the SEES project:
- integrated assessment of EES in cars: characterisation and classification of types of EES components considering legal, environmental and economic aspects;
- assembly study: study of EES assembly and future trends;
- disassembly study: studying EES disassembly from new and end-of-life vehicles to identifying influences on disassembly time, cost and improvement potential;
- EES recycling: development of mechanical and chemical recycling EES processes;
- plastic recycling: development of plastic recycling processes for disassembled EES as well as for shredding residues;
- shredding study: study the contribution of the EES in the shredder output fractions and their recycling/recovery potential;
- environmental and economic studies: life-cycle assessment and costing case studies to define optimum design options and end-of-life scenarios, development of methods to evaluate recyclability/recoverability potential of EES and to simulate end-of-life scenarios;
- co-design guidelines: development of guidelines to improve the environmental profile of EES considering the whole life cycle;
- development of a new EES concept: application of the eco-design guidelines and prototyping of specific parts and functions for a new EES concept, and study of intelligent materials to facilitate disassembly;
- product test: testing and validation of the new EES concept;
- software development: development of software tools to support EES designers and recyclers in evaluating different designs and end-of-life scenarios.
The main products of the SEES project were:
- Investigation of the optimal transport, dismantling and shredding procedures for the automotive EES through real tests;
- Demonstration of metal and plastic recycling technologies for automotive EES incl. value added applications of the recycled materials;
- Environmental and economic assessment of the EES life cycle steps using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) methodologies;
- Specific methodologies and a software tool to assess end-of-life scenarios and recyclability/recoverability of EES products;
- Eco-design guidelines to improve future EES designs towards sustainability;
- New EES concepts and specific parts/functions prototypes to improve sustainability of EES.
In an industry-wide context, the achievements of the SEES project are expected to have the following impacts:
- Improve sustainability of EES products and processes;
- Favour metal and plastic recycling processes for automotive EES to increase recovery and reuse rate;
- Reduce resource consumption and quantity of auto shredding residue (ASR) that goes to landfill;
- Reduce the costs associated with end-of-life processes of automotive EES;
- Increase the competitiveness of European automotive EES designers, producers, dismantlers and recyclers;
- Contribution to standards (dismantling procedure for EES, Design for Environment Guidelines for EES, Life Cycle Costing Methodology).