Environment and Climate

Environmental protection in production

The German automotive industry is aware of its responsibility throughout the entire cycle of a car’s production and use: from the selection of materials, via production in Germany and fuel-efficient operation to closing the materials cycle at the end of the life cycle.

Development REACH

REACH is an EU regulation which came into force on 1 June 2007. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals. The REACH system is based on the principle of industrial self-responsibility. Within the scope of the system only chemicals that have previously been registered are permitted to be brought into circulation. But not only chemicals are affected. Increasingly frequently, materials required in motor manufacturing are coming under REACH's authorization procedures. Depending on the available substitute materials or technologies, these materials are supposed to be replaced in a phased manner. In so doing, the process pays no heed to the risks occurring in use. Authorization also focuses on materials which are already comprehensively regulated and capable of being used safely.

One example is the authorization procedure for chrome (VI) compounds used in the manufacturing of chrome-plated exterior and interior components. The finished work piece contains only innocuous elementary chrome. A potential risk exists solely for workers during the chrome-plating process. However, employee protection is already comprehensively regulated and at a high level by corresponding EU directives and their implementation in the Hazardous Substances Regulation. Costly authorization therefore adds no value. At the industry's prompting, the European Commission has addressed itself to this task, especially as the affected components are produced outside Europe without restriction and can then be imported without further ado. Authorization therefore is directly jeopardizing manufacturing jobs in the EU.

Since last year all proposed materials subject to authorization are to undergo a risk management option analysis by the member states. The aim of this analysis is to find the best risk management option for the material in question. In addition to authorization, this option can also be a restriction, a reclassification, another statutory regulation such as a mandatory limit, but also a waiver of further measures.

An additional major shortcoming in the authorization procedure is the uncertain outcome whether approval will be granted for specific applications. An expiry date is defined when admitting a material to the list of materials subject to authorization. Use is prohibited if by this date no use-related authorization has been granted. The time lag between the Commission's verdict and the expiry date is however far too brief for any necessary conversion of industrial manufacturing processes. Irrespective of the outcome of the authorization this has caused investment in existing, not to mention new, production plant to dry up.

An example of this is the plasticizer DEHP. The expiry date for the use of this substance was 21 February 2015. In future, DEHP will no longer be available for automotive industry applications. Therefore, spare parts must in future be imported from production plants outside the EU – production in the EU is being discontinued. The situation is headed in the same direction with chrome-plating. For spare parts as well the authorization procedure poses a virtually insuperable challenge, as there is no derogation for spare parts after the expiry date. REACH is thus jeopardizing security of supply for parts required to repair vehicles. Redevelopment using alternative materials is uneconomic given the low unit volumes, and is disproportionately expensive.
Moreover, the original spare parts would in any case disappear from the market within the foreseeable future because demand for them is constantly reducing as the relevant vehicles are progressively decommissioned.

What is incomprehensible is that a number of member states insist on these rigid regulations and are failing to support a pragmatic solution – such as the “repair as produced” principle that has been common practice for years in the end-of-life vehicle directive. With each new approval procedure, the  companies of the automotive industry are confronted with far-reaching strategic decisions as regards the relevant production processes and component procurement.

Dr. Stefan Wöhrl
Dr. Stefan Wöhrl Head of Department Environment policy and technical environment protection

Tel: +49 30 897842-300 Fax: +49 30 897842-600
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