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Förslaget inkom 2011-10-05

The use of critical raw materials in passenger cars

High metal prices and the recent geopolitical struggle for rare earth elements have put mineral scarcity back on political, research and business agendas. For example, within the framework of the EU Raw Materials Initiative, 14 materials has been identified as critical for the EU for the ten years to come, including materials such as rare earth metals, platinum group metals, indium, gallium and cobalt. These materials were labelled “critical” since the risks of supply shortage and their impacts on the economy were estimated to be higher compared with most of the other raw materials. Reasons for this is the expected growing demand for certain raw materials, driven by the growth of developing economies and new emerging technologies, such as electrified vehicles batteries, wind power turbines, ICT, catalysts, flat panel displays. Also, an increasing number of government measures such as export taxes, quotas, subsidies etc., and, in some cases, a high level of concentration of the production in a few countries, add to the supply risks.

Several of the materials pointed out as critical are used in conventional passenger cars components such as catalysts, displays, permanent magnets, glass, ICT, and other electronic equipment. For example, a recent study shows that rare earth metals are used in more than 700 components in a Ford passenger car. The on-going electrification of vehicles will likely increase the use of critical materials, particularly in batteries and permanent magnets. An increasing demand in combination with the risk of higher material prices, would call for the automotive industry to reduce or substitute the use of critical raw materials. Re-use or recycling, currently at a very low level for many critical materials, would also be an important response. Thus, there is a need for car manufacturers to identify the component types with high risk concerning criticality or to prioritise for re-use and recycling. Moreover, the environmental impact throughout the vehicle life cycle is significantly affected by the choice of materials used in the automotive manufacturing chain.

A potential source of information for identifying critical component types is IMDS (International Material Data System). IMDS is used by the majority of car manufacturers operating at the EU market. It covers certain substances relevant to parts and materials supplied by the supply chain to the car manufacturers. Several critical materials are included in IMDS. But since some of these are reported on a voluntary basis, information on the exact amounts is probably lacking.

Aim and scope
The aim of the Master’s thesis work is to provide knowledge on the use of critical raw materials in passenger cars. The work includes the following tasks:
(1) screen the IMDS for a number of critical materials
(2) for a number of critical materials included in IMDS, investigate what type of components that contain these materials in two Volvo passenger car models
(3) evaluate, and if necessary compensate for, potential data gaps in IMDS by collecting information directly from Volvo suppliers and from component and material specialists at Volvo
(4) estimate and compare the total magnitude of critical raw materials in the two Volvo passenger car models
(5) draw conclusions on the types of components that could involve potentially high risks concerning criticality
(6) evaluate the usability of IMDS for these kinds of analyses

The thesis is initiated through a collaboration between Volvo Car Corporation and Environmental Systems Analysis, Chalmers. The results from the thesis will be included in on-going research at Chalmers.

Environmental Systems Analysis or Applied Industrial Ecology or equivalent.

Supervisor at Volvo Car Corporation
Andreas Andersson, Volvo Car Corporation

Supervisor and examiner at Chalmers
Maria Ljunggren Söderman, Environmental Systems Analysis, Energy and Environment, Chalmers


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