Report | 1996

Ultralight Hybrid Vehicle Design: Implication for the Recycling Industry

By Michael Brylawski

This paper describes the engineering of the Hypercar, a car made of carbon fiber that is lightweight, efficient, and safe. The authors argue that the automobile industry is on the threshold of potentially dramatic change in its materials use and platform design. Ultralight-hybrid Hypercars, using advanced composites for the autobody, may be more attractive to the consumer, just as profitable to the producer, and much more friendly to the environment than conventional cars. With the change in materials brought on by the production of the Hypercar, similar changes will be required of the automobile recycling industry. With careful clean-sheet design and the industrialization of recycling technologies similar to those described here, Hypercars may even increase the recyclability of cars in the future. Hypercars’ reduced power requirements could make the drive system smaller and simpler, enabling components to be modular for easy removal and upgrading. Its use of a small set of recycling-compatible resins could allow components like the interior, now largely landfilled as fluff, to be recycled along with the advanced-composite autobody. And in the long term, recycling technologies optimized for continuous fiber removal could allow “closed loop” recycling. Therefore, the materials that are now an impediment could actually be the key to increasing automotive recyclability.