Some time ago we showed you a video of a BMW test mules graveyard, the place where  BMW brings their prototypes used in the evaluation phases, prior to their destruction. Test mules or prototypes, pre-production vehicles, and even cars used in marketing campaign, were all neatly arranged in a graveyard waiting to be transformed into scrap metal.

We decided to look further into this process and assembled the story below.

Let’s meet BMW Group’s Recycling and Dismantling Centre (RDZ), outside Munich, where BMW researches the environmentally friendly and efficient reutilization of its cars. Quickly and efficiently, and using cutting edge technology, almost 90% of the car is recycled and reused when its lifecycle ends.

As much as 4,000 automobiles are recycled each year in this special facility. It may be shocking to see cars that look intact and even brand new on the outside, disappearing and being swollen by giant crushers. The truth is the cars have been subject to intense testing and wear out, as have been tested either in snow, ice or desert conditions, or have undergone testing on the Nurburgring-Nordschleife circuit. Even if they have gone for only 20,000 or 30,000 miles, the wear out under these circumstances can be ten times bigger than if it occurred under a normal driving lifecycle.

But how does everything work?

First, the car is drained of all the fluids (oil, petrol, brake fluid, etc). In a separate facility, airbags and belt tensioners are deactivated, and the battery and the pyrotechnic components are safely neutralised. Over time,  BMW has been continuously researching ways to improve this process, such as the case of oil removal from shock absorbers.  BMW Group recycling experts worked with partner companies to develop a device for the rapid and safe evacuation of waste oil.

The fluids and some car parts go to waste disposal, while the undamaged components can be sold as used spare parts (e.g. side panels, wheels, tires or radios). Precious metals like platinum are recycled. Engines can be reconditioned.

At the end, the body of the car is transformed into a cube by the gigantic crusher.

But this does not end here. The cube is shredded into small pieces and then the sorting process begins, with the purpose of separating metals from plastics, by using magnets, eddy currents or screening. This needs to be done in order to be able to reuse the pieces as secondary raw material.

Car recycling is certainly not an easy process, as we’re talking about tens of thousands of parts in each car. This process has become so important for BMW, that they are constantly exploring possibilities to dispose the materials in the best and most efficient way.

At the same time, BMW takes into account a “design for recycling” approach: for example, laying out vehicle components in such a way that fluids like oil, fuel or coolants can be removed quickly and easily at the end of the car’s lifecycle.

What is amazing is that car recycling at BMW has become such a high-tech process, and it is done so efficiently and systematically that at the end, only about 10% may be left unusable, but the other 90%  can still be used.

Let’s have a look at this special BMW facility.

[Source: BMW Magazine | BMW]