Premium car maker Jaguar Land Rover is preparing to enter new territory and use recycled plastics in the passenger cabin to make interior trim with a Class A surface.
“We already use compounds with recycled content,” said Robert Crow, group leader — materials innovation in Engineering Technical Services at Jaguar Land Rover. “The Range Rover L405 has about 34 kilograms of recycled plastic content and the Evoque has about 16 kilograms. But none of those parts have surfaces that customers can touch and feel.”
Car makers have been increasing the volume of recycled plastics in many components as part of efforts to meet European Union targets for incorporating recycled materials in vehicles. But until now, Class A surfaces have been a no-go area as polymer compounds that include recyclate have just not been able to meet the performance demands needed for interior trim.
That may be about to change, though, as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is part of the Recyclite project, in which the company and its partners recycler and compounder Luxus Ltd., equipment supplier Coperion GmbH and auto supplier International Automotive Components expect to commercialize polypropylene compounds that have high scratch resistance and are also lighter than existing compounds.
Crow described the project as a “double win” because the use of recycled material and lower weight of the compounds are both beneficial in JLR's program for reducing the environmental impact of its vehicles. The car maker uses an approach based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) which takes into account all factors that can affect a product's environmental footprint.
“We don't set recycled content using a weight target; we have a LCA target per vehicle line,” he said.
The data generated by suppliers during manufacturing — for example, energy they use during production — is used by JLR in its LCAs. These LCAs inform decisions on materials that will be used in new car models, such as the high ratio of recycled aluminum used in the 2014 Jaguar XE.
“The LCA is not just a tracking tool. We also use it predictively to drive new technologies into vehicles,” said Crow.
In the two-year Recyclite project, which is co funded by the Eco-Innovation initiative of the European Union, Louth, England-based Luxus will develop its Hycolene range of lightweight PP compounds with up to 60 percent recycled content. The project's funding has allowed the company to buy a new twin screw co-rotating extruder from Coperion, which is working closely with Luxus on scaling up production of Hycolene compounds to make commercial quantities on the new equipment. The screw configuration and feed system, using a Coperion K Tron unit, are key focus areas.
JLR and Tier 1 interior supplier IAC, with global headquarters in Luxembourg, will test the compounds in a demonstrator part during the project. Crow said this is a large Class A component in a current model, which they have chosen because it is technically challenging in terms of its form and performance.
It is too early to say in which production parts the Hycolene compounds will first be used. Crow said: “We use a lot of talc-filled PP, so there are a whole host of parts the compounds could go into.”
The cabin interior is an untapped application area for recycled polymers because of very high performance and decorative quality demands. Crow said projects like Recylite help JLR address performance concerns.
“The project is about giving us confidence to use recycled compounds,” he said.