What Does BMW’s Automotive Circular Economy Look Like?

BMW Group evolves, delivering a range of EVs built on increasingly sustainable principles as Thomas Becker explains the drive towards a circular economy

The circular economy was once a nice concept, now becoming a reality among all industries wherever possible and financially feasible. Such an initiative requires a significant amount of investment in design and consideration in the supply chain to ensure successful implementation. 

BMW Group seems to have begun its journey early on and the result was a beautiful-looking concept that showcased the potential for sustainable materials in car manufacturing, and more responsible choices to be made throughout its supply chain. 

The concept, called i Vision Circular, was released into the public domain in 2021, way before the company had launched its now extensive electric vehicle (EV) product range. Although the BMW i8 marked its debut into electrification, the i Vision Circular brings in concepts that are now feasible in the modern automotive world. 

The concept shows the direction of where BMW is headed, incorporating various sustainable features and sourcing initiatives. 

  • Recycled and recyclable material use in it cars
  • Waste disposal methods that put materials back into the supply chain 
  • Reducing its water consumption per vehicle produced 
  • Designing in such a way that reduces the quantity of materials and leverages them in a creative way 

Why is automotive focused on the circular economy? 

BMW’s case pretty much echoes the industry as all companies are plagued by a number of impending problems. First is the deadline to ban the sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles by the end of the decade—2040 for some countries—and other is the stringent supply of high-value resources to achieve this. 

The body components of cars can, and will, be made from circular materials or secondary materials as a means of reducing the impact of manufacturing on precious new resources. However, this isn’t new to the industry. 

The European Commission (EC) highlights that, in 2021, the percentage of recycling or recovery of end-of-life materials was around 90% across the European Union (EU). Component recovery led the way as parts are extracted from end-of-life passenger and light-duty vehicles and used in similar vehicles as pre-owned parts. 

Recycling was still very high on the agenda with the Czech Republic leading the way in component recovery and circular practices. 

BMW’s strategy for circularity in automotive 

BMW's strategy for a circular economy focuses on minimising resource consumption and maximising the reuse and recycling of materials throughout the vehicle lifecycle. This includes designing vehicles for recyclability, using renewable and recycled materials, increasing the use of secondary materials, optimising production processes for efficiency, extending vehicle lifespans, and enhancing recycling practices for end-of-life vehicles. 

The company’s Chairman Oliver Zipse previously said: “The future of the BMW Group is circular—and the NEUE KLASSE brings us another step closer to this objective. To achieve this, we are applying the principles of the circular economy even more systematically throughout the entire lifecycle of the future vehicle generation”.

The aim is to reduce dependence on primary raw materials, decrease carbon footprints, and contribute to a more sustainable future. For a detailed outline, please visit the BMW Group's official page on circular economy​.

By 2023, the BMW Group will offer its customers 13 fully electric models. “For us, sustainability means much more than just building and selling electric vehicles,” says Thomas Becker, Head of Sustainability and Urban Mobility at the BMW Group. “The bottom line is that only a comprehensive approach to sustainability, from resources to recycling, will actually reduce CO2 emissions.”

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