The here and now
So many of yesterday’s bright ideas are today’s working realities.
‘One day’ has become today, and astounding progress is being made in a variety of ways every day that yesterday were just interesting talking points.
13 October, 2021
This repurposing of ‘cast off’ materials though doesn’t signal any shift in quality for the brand
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of what will be possible in the future and forget to notice the things that have come to fruition and now form part of the every day. Not so long ago, the idea of a luxury car maker using discarded materials in the construction of their cars was a pipe dream. It was theoretically possible, and it was an attractive idea to take consumer waste products and reuse them, but most thought that it was little more than an engaging discussion point. A classic case of ‘one day, this will be possible’.
But the fact is that that ‘nice idea’ is a working reality at Audi and for example there are up to 45 1.5-litre PET bottles in the seats of an Audi A3 and another 62 PET bottles are recycled to make the carpet. This re-use of cast off material is not a one-off either, but rather is being adopted across the board, with the new Audi Q4 also offering seat upholstery made of 45 percent recycled material, as well as the boot cover being made of recycled materials along with another six kilograms worth used in the flooring.
This repurposing of ‘cast off’ materials though doesn’t signal any shift in quality for the brand, but rather shows a willingness to extract the same high standards of finish using unconventional materials.
Take the Dinamica fabric as a perfect example – this recycled material has the same look and feel of suede, but is nearly half recycled polyester coming from textile off cuts and PET bottles.
The high-performance Audi e-tron GT also showcases a wealth of recycled materials finding their way into these high-end vehicles from sources best described as ‘left field’. The carpet and floor mats in the e-tron GT are made of Econyl, a material that consists of 100 percent recycled nylon fibres tenant which originally comes from production waste, fabric and carpet scraps, or plastic waste from the oceans – think discarded fishing nets that otherwise choke up waterways and literally choke wild sea creatures. In addition, one of the Audi e-tron GT’s 20-inch wheel options is made of aluminium manufactured in a low-carbon production process.
Addressing the byproducts of technology and how they will be dealt with over time is as important as creating new technology in the first place. Second-phase life for lithium-ion batteries is a perfect case in point and is behind such initiatives as using used e-tron battery modules to provide power to merchants in Uttar Pradesh, India, for example. This pilot project is backed by the Audi Environmental Foundation which is providing funding to the German-Indian startup Nunam, which manufactures the energy storage systems.
Lithium-ion batteries have also been used to produce a storage unit for the Euref campus in Berlin, which, with its capacity of 1.9 MWh, could supply the entire 5.5-hectare campus with electricity for just under two hours on its own.
Addressing the byproducts of technology and how they will be dealt with over time is as important as creating new technology
While myriad other projects are looking at other ways of recycling and reusing materials to safeguard resources for the future
Audi is also conducting a pilot project using these second-phase batteries in what is known as the Audi charging hub. The hub’s three storage cubes, with a combined capacity of 2.45 MWh, each require only a standard 400-volt high-voltage connection to power a total of six charging points with a charging output of up to 300 kW.
Renewable power in the production of vehicles at Audi is nothing new, but facilities like the sprawling Audi Győr site show that it is a working reality. With its 36,400 solar cells on an area the size of 22 soccer fields, the Győr site generates a whopping 9.5 gigawatt hours of power each year.
The brand’s ‘Aluminium Closed Loop’ – an industrial-sized initiative to reuse scraps of aluminium from the production process – resulted in the net avoidance of a total of 165,000 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2020 alone. While myriad other projects on a smaller scale – for now at least – are looking at other ways of recycling and reusing materials to safeguard resources for the future. A pilot project with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has already demonstrated that it is feasible to make pyrolysis oil out of plastic waste from automotive manufacturing and that this can then be turned back into plastic. Now Audi and KIT are working on scaling up the process and making it yet another functioning reality.
All of these working realities began life as a ‘wouldn’t it be good if’ idea that is now accepted reality.
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