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Designing vehicles for a circular economy

Graph about average material content comparison: Combustion vs Electric Vehicles

Recycling system mapping

We first analyzed the global vehicle and battery recycling system to determine the recycling potential for electric vehicles in Polestar's key markets, considering geographical disparities in recycling systems, processes, and legislation.

The team discovered that the current systems, well designed for traditional cars, struggle with electric vehicles due to changes in components and materials used. Based on the comprehensive assessment, we developed an informed projection of the future demand and supply of recycled material for battery manufacturing.  

Current recycling rate for electric vehicles in the Nordics

Design for circularity product assessment

To understand to what extent a car design is in line with circular economy principles, we performed a design for circularity analysis, using our proprietary Design for Circularity methodology, evaluating three key perspectives: business model, product design, and system. The analysis combined insights from desk research, expert interviews, and a physical disassembly of a car and of a high-voltage battery.

In our findings, current recycling for end-of-life vehicles mainly recovers metals but is limited for plastics, composites, and electronics. Battery recycling is increasing but won't satisfy the upcoming demand for recycled content for a decade. Design development could enhance circularity but would need to be paired with innovative systems and business models to enable real material efficiency. 

Following the Design for Circularity methodology, Stena Circular Consulting’s team was able to develop specific design guidelines for two product’s functional areas. These focused on repairing, reusing, remanufacturing, and recycling, aiding engineers in crafting circular economy-driven vehicles.