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08 February 2017

Here’s How BMW Recycles Its Cars

The Totally Morbid, Surprisingly Effective Way That BMW Recycles Its Cars

BMW says it can recover 95 percent of the material that goes into the i3. Here’s the whole process.

In this 50-minute supercut, you can see multiple pre-production (?) cars getting their airbags popped, fluids drained (including from the shock absorbers), bodies stripped and exhausts cut out, with the remains getting crushed and compressed soon after. It’s not a comedy.

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Of course what really sets BMW’s end-of-life effort apart is that after melting the steel and aluminum familiar to most automakers, the Bavarians also have to deal with large quantities of used carbon fiber from the i3 and i8. The disassembly of these hybrid cars starts out the same as for traditional vehicles, but after the battery pack is removed from the chassis, the carbon body gets cut into small pieces and heated up. After the treatment, BMW ends up with a sheet of raw material it then reinforces with fibers, turning the plastic waste into a strong synthetic fabric that can be used again in new cars.

While the industry average for the recyclability is at 80 percent today (with over 25 million tons of materials getting recovered from old vehicles), BMW says as much as 95 percent of its city car can be recycled. In other words, don’t expect to see any i3s languishing in your local scrap yard in the coming decades.

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