In 2008, British car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover began an initiative with the support of Innovate UK. This initiative, named REALCar (Recycled Aluminium Car) is now radically increasing the amount of recycled materials being used in its manufacturing process. The project was aimed to tackle the CO2 and fuel economy challenges that face the automotive industry. This sounds like a simple idea, but the truth was an entirely different story.
Innovative approach to material manufacturing
What does it take to reduce the CO2 in the manufacturing process? The answer is innovation. The use of more secondary material is imperative. For this to come into fruition, Jaguar Land Rover required the assistance of metallurgists, chemists, recyclers and rolling mills. The team even sought an academic perspective from Brunel University. This proved fruitful as the university offered expertise in the evaluation of next-generation processing techniques. At the very core of the project, material innovation could be found.
Developing a new alloy
A revised alloy called RC5754 was developed for use in JLR’s cars. The manufacturer worked alongside industrial aluminium company Novelis to bring about this recycle-friendly alloy. The desire for using a greater amount of recycled content in a material that could be mass-produced was daunting. A great amount of technical work and research was needed. The material had to be able to fit JLR’s requirements whilst being able to do everything Novelis demanded of it.
Closing the loop
The use of a specially-developed recycle-friendly alloy is pointless if the recycling process itself isn’t efficient. Therein laid a great sticking point for the manufacturing process, how can the product be returned back? How can you ‘close the loop’? All eyes fell on end of life scrap metal, this was considered by many to be the answer. The simplest way of obtaining scrap metal was a lot closer to home. The project saw a large amount of investment given to JLR’s press shops to recover scrap metal from the manufacturing process. The investment saw a controlled, automated collection system for scrap aluminium to be returned to Novelis for re-use in new batches of RC5754.
Is the automotive industry becoming more sustainable?
What we noticed from the REALCar initiative is that every company involved openly embraced the necessary changes to their manufacturing processes to deliver a more sustainable outcome. This is a movement which can benefit the UK and wider global economy. The alloys are now being used in various Jaguar cars, including performance models. This proves that you can bring exciting cars to customers in a sustainable way.
Bringing F1 technology to low-cost car manufacturing
REALCar is only part of the story. We’ve experienced success before with this kind of sustainable automotive manufacturing investment. We worked with Gordon Murray Design to bring Formula 1 technology into the everyday market at an affordable price. In F1, weight counts against everything. Cars are made lighter so they can accelerate faster or corner smoother. In the domestic market, weight affects fuel consumption and emissions. The iStream initiative from Gordon Murray Design uses F1 technology with more cost-effective materials. The iStream process lowered the capital investment needed by manufacturers, increased safety and made the end product lighter. Without the backing of Innovate UK, initiatives like this aren’t ordinarily possible. The assistance throughout R&D stages as well as the credibility of working with a government-backed initiative makes stories like this a success.