Sustainability has grow to be a core a part of Volkswagen AG’s company technique, and it’s shaking up the corporate’s provide chain, processes and materials choice. This presents a wonderful alternative for composite suppliers.
“We’re seeing massive companies going towards very small startups – and typically the startups have the extra fascinating supplies for automotive functions,” says Timo Achtelik, a fabric engineer at Volkswagen AG.
Suppliers seeking to get their foot within the door with Volkswagen will discover their merchandise should first cross by means of a four-step stage-gate course of Volkswagen applied in 2021. The steps embody thought assortment, a feasibility evaluation, materials testing and validation, and testing and validation of the fabric inside a selected part.
Step 1: Concept assortment – Suppliers, in addition to Volkswagen crew members from car designers to building engineers and materials growth engineers, are inspired to counsel new supplies. “We attempt to implement a course of the place each division works collectively and may push ahead concepts,” Achtelik says.
Presently, Volkswagen has roughly 250 sustainable supplies in its database to evaluate for potential use throughout all car parts, from seats and steering wheels to physique panels and batteries. Firms not already serving as suppliers can submit recommendations to the Procurement Division’s Innovation Workplaces by way of email@example.com.
Step 2: Feasibility evaluation – Subsequent, materials engineers assess the technical traits of the steered supplies of their database. This contains screening sustainability knowledge and creating first-cost estimations. “Since sustainability is a fuzzy idea, we’ve tried to make it measurable,” Achtelik says.
Suppliers are requested to offer particulars on product composition that assist classify the fabric inside Volkswagen-set norms for post-consumer recycled supplies, post-industrial recycled supplies, renewable supplies and virgin materials. Materials engineers additionally consider these traits in accordance with their inside sustainability objectives.
“We at all times need to concentrate on the recyclability of the fabric, in addition to our decarbonization and round targets,” Achtelik explains. “A carbon fiber-reinforced plastic may result in enormous decarbonization measures, however on the finish of the day we can not recycle this materials. We attempt to get composites that fulfill all targets into our vehicles.”
Whereas Achtelik notes that the energy and lightweight weight of CFRP will probably show essential for assembly total sustainability targets, Volkswagen can be trying to find renewable fibers used together with recyclable thermoplastic polymers. The corporate can be inquisitive about biodegradable supplies that may be recycled and even compostable on an industrial scale. One answer that Volkswagen is growing is a leatherette for car interiors that makes use of espresso bean waste as a principal part – on this case to exchange petrochemical-based plastics.
One other space of curiosity is round chemical recycling, the place polymers are damaged right down to get materials with virgin qualities once more. “Presently, the chemical recycling business faces challenges in terms of its life cycle evaluation (LCA) and vitality demand usually, so it’s not cheap or helpful for the automotive business to make use of it for now. However we are going to see in regards to the future,” Achtelik says.