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FCA’s green credentials

In January of this year FCA announced that the Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda will be its first models to adopt the group’s new hybrid technology (see page 12). The new 500 Mild Hybrid and Panda Mild Hybrid will make hybrid technology accessible to all and now available in UK showrooms.

For the past 120 years, Fiat has been a pioneer in technology and an innovator in mobility. The organisation is now rapidly implementing a drive to build a more sustainable model for future mobility.

The Launch Edition seats are the first in the automotive sector to be made of Seaqual® Yarn, the weaving of which produces a special material, certified by Seaqual®, derived from recycled plastic, 10% of which originates from the sea and the balance from land. Seaqual® Yarn is produced by transforming plastics collected from the sea into flakes of polyethylene terephthalate.

These flakes are then used in the yarn from which the fabrics are made. In the weaving phase, marine polyester is mixed with other natural, recycled or recovered fibres. This process is completed by the application of dyes and finishes which minimise the use of water and energy.

FCA supports using recycled and renewable materials in its new products. The amount of renewable or recycled content included in new vehicles varies dependent on performance requirements and the market availability of such materials. For some types of materials in its vehicles (such as metal), the percentage of recycled content is significant.

Material innovation and development is conducted by FCA’s Group Material Labs (GML) in Europe and the Materials Engineering organisation in the US. The GML monitors changes in legislation and assesses potential implications on the group’s products and processes. In 2018, the Materials Engineering organisation approved sustainable materials for use in FCA vehicles. These materials contain recycled or bio/renewable content, or low emissions polymers. The new applications included recycled content on the Jeep Cherokee engine cover and air cleaner housings, and grades of synthetic suede for several vehicles.

FCA has established a closed-loop process to return aluminium and steel scraps to selected suppliers in Europe and recycle them back into our manufacturing processes. Up to 25% of aluminium casting parts used in some powertrain applications in Italy are secondary alloys. FCA also promote the use of recycled plastics in its design requirements. For example, the manufacture of gasoline tanks internally that are up to 39% recycled plastic by weight for certain European applications.

FCA participates in a variety of collaborative projects related to materials research. These include the SPIDER project, that aims to produce safe and environmentally friendly lithium-ion batteries by reducing or substituting critical raw materials like cobalt and graphite with other more sustainable metals such as nickel, titanium and silicon.

FCA is also a member of the European Union’s CarE-Service project, that aims to demonstrate innovative Circular Economy business models based on advanced mobility services. FCA’s activities are mainly focused on re-use, remanufacturing and recycling end-of-life batteries from hybrid and electric vehicles.

Other initiatives the group is involved with include the REINVENT project, with the objective of producing polyols from renewable sources and bio-materials from forest residue; and a cooperative research project involving FCA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US) and a casting supplier, which created a new aluminium alloy for use in engine components. This alloy maintains its strength in heat well beyond components in current use and can be cast and machined using existing technologies.

FCA also recently completed a project with the Canadian National Research Council, to optimise non-woven eco-substrates for interior trim applications and the fabrication of components on an industrial scale. The project successfully identified several bio-reinforcements capable of being used in door panel applications, as well as practical uses for recycled carbon fibres in similar applications.

In addition to these measures, FCA works to eliminate or reduce the use of Substances of Concern (SoC) that may impact human health or the environment.

FCA uses the International Material Data System (IMDS) to track the composition of individual materials and components in its vehicles.

Data from IMDS is then fed into FCA internal management systems, which are used to monitor the content of all vehicles and identify the presence of SoCs. These systems are crucial for tracking vehicle recyclability and recoverability, as well as monitoring SoCs included on the Global Automotive Declarable Substance List (GADSL).