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SPIRAL

Beyond Circularity for Future Mobility

MA 2020/2022
Keywords
Electric vehicles, Circularity, Sustainability targets, Artificial Intelligence
Overview

The government’s carbon emission regulations have gained immense emphasis from automobile manufacturers. However, biased decisions within different sustainability targets like carbon zero goals, recyclability, ethical sourcing etc., create environmentally harmful causal loops, often uncovered during the design phase. Attaining the desired circularity while balancing other sustainability targets is a challenge.

Spiral is an AI-based service that helps EV manufacturers to prioritise different sustainability targets and make circular material decisions during the automobile design and concept development phase. The AI-powered plugin integrates with existing design and engineering software to ensure sustainable material decisions.

Collaboration
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Background and Research

The automobile industry has been one of the most circular industries, with almost 75-85% of its materials being recycled and finding their way back into the value chain in different industries. However, with the EV transition, the industry is getting into a learning phase which is going to disrupt its end-of-life circularity due to various problems in the system.  There is an immediate need for the industry to shift its production from being more human-centred to designing for the product's lifetime and its end-of-life. 

We conducted extensive research to understand the existing material decision-making process in the industry by deep diving into their design and concept development stages. We interviewed and ran workshops with various industry experts, including designers, engineers, procurement teams, sustainability teams and material suppliers/recyclers associated with different EV brands.

The Challenge

The government’s carbon emission regulations have gained immense emphasis from automobile manufacturers. Manufacturers are prioritising making lightweight cars, as it is directly associated with reducing a car’s carbon emission in its overall lifetime. This unintentionally results in EV brands using lightweight materials with poor recyclability. Such biased decisions within different sustainability targets like carbon zero goals, recyclability, ethical sourcing etc., create environmentally harmful causal loops, often uncovered during the design phase. Attaining the desired circularity while balancing other sustainability targets is a challenge.

In exploring the designers' decision-making journey, we identified four main blockers to making sustainable material decisions:

[1] Lack of visibility on all the sustainable alternatives available in the market (decisions are made based on their knowledge and experience).

[2] Lack of awareness of new material in the market (happens only when suppliers reach out to the manufacturer with a new material proposal).

[3] Complexities in prioritising and balancing requirements on physical properties and sustainability targets (Key problem).

[4] Lack of coordination between internal teams results in increased material diversity and causal loop consequences.

Problem Statement

How might we ensure circularity in the EV industry while resolving conflicts between their different sustainability targets?

Our Service

Spiral is an AI-based service that helps EV manufacturers to prioritise different sustainability targets and make circular material decisions during the automobile design and concept development phase. The AI-powered plugin integrates with existing design and engineering software to ensure sustainable material decisions through the three service components:

[1] Analysis & Prioritisation- Analyses to balance different material property requirements and sustainability targets and highlight opportunities for material replacement.

[2] Awareness of alternatives- Providing visibility and bespoke suggestions on all the available materials and their details, circularity metrics, and contribution to the overall impact.

[3] Internal Collaboration- Facilitating alignment between different internal teams to make collective material decisions.

Validation and Impact

We validated our service structure and components with several industry experts and all the stakeholders involved and used the feedback to iterate further and refine the service.

“In principle, I think it's a really good concept. I know that we're trying to establish something similar, which is like a material calculator, which would show the CO2 footprints and also, we want to add kind of the recyclability of the materials into that list so that when you choose a material or designer chooses, they can see like is this recyclable material or not” - Head of Circular at an EV manufacturing brand.

The automotive industry is a complex system of various stakeholders with different requirements and needs. Spiral connects them, creating multi-sided benefits, and eliminating barriers within the ecosystem. Spiral can potentially create a broader impact on businesses and the planet. It brings out the business value of sustainability by broadening the scope for making cost-effective and sustainable decisions, as well as facilitating sustainable and responsible production.

SPECIAL
THANKS

Special thanks to- our tutor Richard Atkinson for guiding us throughout the journey; Sander Jahilo (Head of Circular, Polestar) for the valuable feedback and support, and to all our workshop participants and interviewees.

Team
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