The Next Level of Sustainability: Circular Economy in Automotive Engineering

CO2 is not only produced when a vehicle is used - but long before that, during raw material extraction, production and throughout the entire logistics chain. In order to permanently reduce climate-damaging emissions, OEMs and suppliers are moving towards a circular economy. This is a central building block for the sustainable mobility of tomorrow, says Thomas Triboulet, Director of Sustainability, Electrified Mobility at Robert Bosch GmbH. He will be speaking on this topic at the 24th International VDI Congress Dritev.

The transformation of the automotive industry towards sustainable mobility is strongly driven by current and future legal requirements, increased environmental awareness among end consumers and existing climate agreements. As battery electric vehicles greatly reduce CO2 emissions, they make an important contribution to this transformation. However, according to Thomas Triboulet, it is just as essential to focus on the principles of the circular economy: “The path to a circular economy is irreversible. Our goal is to use the circular economy to significantly increase the sustainability of the powertrain from production to reuse, remanufacturing and recycling.”

Using Scarce Resources More Efficiently

The entire value chain is involved: from suppliers and customers to end users, recycling companies and many more. The traditional value chain is becoming a value cycle that integrates the reuse, reprocessing or recycling of products at the end of their life. It is not only stricter regulations and sustainability targets that are driving the issue forward. The topic is also rapidly gaining in importance due to dwindling resources for many raw materials. “We at Bosch take this topic very seriously and are already working intensively on suitable solutions,” continues Thomas Triboulet.

Sustainability is a Design Task

With clear KPI targets – such as a continuous increase in the proportion of recycled materials – the automotive industry can move closer to the goal of a continuous circular economy. Sustainability is also a design task: lighter components that use less material also conserve limited resources. “We have already made a lot of progress in terms of material efficiency. Optimized components not only reduce CO2 emissions, but also costs – an ideal win-win situation,” explains the keynote speaker at the VDI Dritev Congress.

Utilizing Technological Advances

There is great potential for electric vehicle drives in particular. One example of the optimized use of materials is the reduction of magnets in electric motors. Thomas Triboulet sees a further field of action in the development of business models so that OEMs and suppliers can also participate more economically in improved recycling opportunities.

Extending Product Cycles, Reusing Components

Another way to use materials sustainably is to extend product cycles. “Our electric drives are designed for a service life of over 15 years anyway,” explains Thomas Triboulet. One future option could be the recycling and reuse of components – a concept that is already being exemplified by the aviation industry, for example.

In any case, the Bosch expert is convinced that circular economy models will have a major impact on the future of automotive manufacturing: “OEMs and suppliers are already working intensively on designing and implementing these cycles.”

Source: Bosch

Thomas Triboulet is Director of Sustainability, Electrified Mobility at Robert Bosch GmbH and keynote speaker at Dritev 2024.