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06.12.21

„IN FOR A PENNY,…" - A COMMENT FROM COO DR. HELMUT KAUFMANN

AMAG COO Dr. Helmut Kaufmann talks in this Blog about the consequences of phasing out internal combustion engines in the passenger car section, especially in connection with aluminum recycling in Europe.

I've already pointed out several times that a looming problem exists with the elimination of the largest source of aluminum scrap demand, when con- ventional engine blocks, transmission housings, and pistons are no longer needed, or are only required to a very limited extent. What does that mean? At present, these essential power train components in internal combustion vehicles are manufactured worldwide from highly alloyed aluminum materials. Those are ideal for mixed scrap recycling due to their high copper, zinc, and iron content. If these applications are eliminated on a large scale, mixed scrap recycling becomes a problem.

 

Well, as a first, comparatively simple step, we need to develop recycling-friendly alloys for new applications that can tolerate higher limits for copper, zinc, iron, and other elements. That in itself will allow us to use more scrap, but it won't be able to compensate for the fall in scrap demand for die casting alloys that I mentioned before. That problem requires truly new approaches.

What might such truly new approaches look like? Perhaps what we call cross-over alloys. This would benefit from creative thinking. However, I fear another scenario will take hold before we get that far. We're already hearing now that Europe is forging ahead with banning conventional combustion engines, but OEMs will continue to produce internal combustion engines outside Europe for other markets. So we should expect the valuable scrap from Europe to be exported to other regions of the world. That won't help fight global climate change, but it will mean losing one of Europe's areas of strength

AMAG COO Helmut Kaufmann
AMAG COO Helmut Kaufmann

The reason for my skepticism: It stems from the concern that existing systems are being dismantled without first taking the time to establish new, better, environmentally-friendly systems that can function on a global level. How do electric vehicles help us fight climate change if the electricity doesn't come from renewable sources? In industry, what's the point of switching over to hydrogen technology or electrification if we don't have enough green hydrogen and enough green electricity?

AMAG COO Helmut Kaufmann

In order to even partially mitigate the climate crisis, we have to act extremely quickly. In my opinion, we're running out of time to build energy alternatives. It would have been possible to add a very practical intermediate step on the unavoidable path to climate-neutral mobility, namely a limit on engine power, vehicle weight, and vehicle size. If we introduced a global horsepower and weight limit, exploiting the increase in efficiency for minimizing consumption instead of improving performance, we could achieve a lot with the existing infrastructure in the short term, while building the infrastructure necessary for electromobility or hydrogen propulsion in Europe as quickly as possible. What I don't want to see is a situation where, at a certain point, we lack a sufficient supply of green electricity, so we have to buy internal combustion engine vehicles produced outside Europe for our transportation needs.

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