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CPOTE2020 logo
6th International Conference on
Contemporary Problems of Thermal Engineering
Online | 21-24 September 2020

Abstract CPOTE2020-1114-A

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Exergy approach to assess the criticality and recyclability of materials in vehicles

Alejandro ABADÍAS, HZDR - Freiberg, Germany
Alicia VALERO, CIRCE Institute- Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain
Markus REUTER, HZDR Freiberg, Germany
Abel ORTEGO, Circe institute. University of Zaragoza, Spain
Marta IGLESIAS-ÉMBIL, Circe institute. University of Zaragoza, Spain

The automotive industry is one of the most active in incorporating new technological developments. As such, vehicles have suffered many different transformations since their deployment, increasing thereby their power, safety and environmental aspects. All such developments are unavoidably linked to the use of more amounts and varieties of raw materials. Currently, a car incorporates more than 40 different types of metals, even if steel, aluminum and copper present the highest share. Unfortunately, at the end of life of the vehicle, only the previous three plus lead from the batteries and platinum from the catalyzer become recycled. The remaining metals, many of them considered critical because of their scarcity and their importance for the economy, become lost or downcycled in steel or aluminum alloys. The scarcity of raw materials is a critical issue that governments need to face in order to ensure a secure supply for the deployment of clean energy technologies, including the electric vehicle. Therefore, the so-called “circular economy” is strongly being promoted, so that end of life products can become again a source of raw materials and dependence on primary production from third countries can be decreased. In this sense, due to the material intensity of vehicles, circular economy principles of vehicles will be key. This paper uses an exergy approach to identify the most critical components in a car, understood as those car parts that contain valuable and scarce materials. The approach is based on the thermodynamic rarity methodology, which assesses minerals in exergy terms according to their relative scarcity in the crust and the energy required to extract and refine them. As a result, the 11 most critical car parts are selected and a detailed recyclability analysis is undertaken. To that end, a physical dismantling of the car parts into three main fractions is performed. Each part is divided into steel, aluminum and non-ferrous flows. With a dedicated software called HSC Chemistry, a metallurgical process is simulated for each flow, including all required equipment to extract most of the minor metals for each fraction. A thermoeconomic assessment is then undertaken to assess the costs associated to recover each of the metals contained in the analyzed car parts and at which rate. Valuable conclusions were obtained from the analysis, validating the thermodynamic methodology in assessing the resource efficiency of vehicles.

Keywords: Exergy, Thermodynamic rarity, Vehicles, Raw materials, Recycling
Acknowledgment: This paper has received funding from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and under project ENE2017-85224-R and from SEAT S.A. under project AWARE