Eight leading car brands and two lorry manufacturers have joined forces in an attempt to reduce the amount of raw materials they use in production.
Drive Sustainability has been working to improve the efficiency of industry supply chains, which include resource extraction, processing and production, for five years. The objective for the new partners is to reduce the amount or improve the sustainability of new materials needed to produce vehicles.
This is seen as important because vehicles, while often vastly more sustainable than before, are still extremely resource intensive. Research shows that, on average, 47% of cars are made of steel, 8% of iron and 8% of plastic, with 7% made from aluminium and 3% glass.
Demand for materials such as these is rising as global sales increase, while the growth of electric cars is also causing a surge in demand for rare earth metals such as neodymium, dysprosium and terbium, as well as lithium ion, all of which are energy intensive to extract.
Drive Sustainability said this surge in resource extraction is often met with little regulation and “weak governance” (because the resources can be located in countries with no laws protecting them), meaning industry is at risk of consuming resources too quickly and affecting environments even more negatively.
In recent years, vehicle manufacturers have been using increasing amounts of plastic in vehicles in an attempt to improve their recyclability. But research shows that in Britain, for example, just 9% of plastic is recycled, emphasising how plastic sourced via a supply chain can still require a large amount of new resources.
Tyre brands, which still consume vast amounts of natural rubber from trees, have also moved to reduce their impact on deforestation. Michelin announced last year that it was tracing its entire rubber supply chain, making it the first big tyre brand to do so.
It said in a release: “Our vision is to consider sustainable natural rubber as a natural and responsible way to protect forests with high conservation value and high carbon stock [as trees are seen as a way to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere], as well as foster other environmental services.”
Continental is also working to replace tree-sourced rubber with rubber that can be grown in dandelion fields. This, it said, vastly enhances the quantity of rubber produced per square metre, decreasing the space required for a rubber farm and therefore reducing potential deforestation these sites cause.