Did you read the article you linked to? It says 2000 EVs per plane (767 example) and about 11K -15K planes currently retired or will be by 2030 or 2035. Quick math says that is a lot of cars. Somehow they say up to 50M cars specifically for battery casings which needs high quality aircraft aluminum.
Unless someone thinks we’re on the cusp of going backwards into some sort of “Cuban aviation” economy where there’s a need to resurrect forty year old planes like 1958 Packards on the streets of Havana, chopping up thousands of planes sitting in the desert that will never travel under their own power seems like a wise idea.
All of these planes were manufactured to exacting specs that are still widely known so this stock of airframes can yield tons of aluminum meeting very specific specifications needed for modern vehicles. This approach may not be “sustainable” since its “supply” is not unlimited but the set-up costs of processes to disassemble, ship and re-smelt would appear far less than mining raw bauxite and creating NEW aluminum from scratch. Making new alumunim is a notoriously un-clean process, one that among other byproducts produces a highly alkaline “red sludge” at a 2:1 ratio for every ton of alumunim produced.
Besides, getting all of those junk planes out of the desert frees up all that land for alien space craft to land, which everyone can agree is a much better use of the space.
That graph shows both BEV and PHEV numbers. (The battery casings in a PHEV require much less material than in a EV.) But usings those numbers, if this company were to get 100% market share (not likely) they would produce the metal for 20M cars between 2025 and 2030.
And, according to the article they could recycle of parts like the high grade plastics.
Aluminum supply from these sources still has to go through the metals supply chain. It doesn’t matter how “great” the aerospace grade scrap is, it still needs to be remelted and alloyed, homogenized, extruded and aged correctly.
The best thing they can do is segregate into different alloy scrap piles then send to a remelter.
At the end of the day, this is the classic recycling problem. Remake costs are tied to how organized the flow of materials back to the melter.
And that only matters because it influences the quantity of prime ingot required to rebalance the alloy table.
Your quote about BEV and PHEV is less tied to vehicle type and more tied to vehicle design.
There is a cultural push for aluminum because it’s more recyclable, its better at crash protection (energy absorption) and it offsets some weight in these heavy vehicles.
Design of members and unit weight of materials are the drivers.
Also, crash alloys are not Just 6061-T6 aerospace grade. They are highly proprietary and performant. As a result, they will be melted and blended down along with the 6063 window frames and A356 cast wheels that come in on a similar truck from the same recycler. The magic comes in the other metals present in the alloy. THIS can only be done at the melter.
One of the best ideas. In fact, one could say that pretty much anything of value can be recycled. Invariably someone will argue with this and bring up all sorts of examples that aren’t. Well, the conversation after that is usually very short:
Me: Anything of value can be recycled.
Them: But whaddabout X, Y, and Z?
Me: How much are you willing to pay for X?
Them: Nothing, I don’t want X.
Me: I said anything of VALUE, not things that are worthless!
It’s kind of a joke, but one that provides insight. In the end, it’s really true, anything that can provide value to someone will likely eventually be recycled. If there is an economically efficient way to dismantle these planes and harvest the aluminum, someone will likely do it. Or at least attempt to do it, and perhaps encounter some unforeseen difficulties along the way.
I couldn’t read the original article (paywalled), but are they talking about using this aluminum for casted large body parts (crash protection, weight, etc) or just for battery casings? If it’s for battery casings does it still all need to be melted down before use?
As an aside, this is one of the main reasons why we can’t have cleaner refineries in the USA. It is nearly impossible to get a new refinery permitted today, so we continue to use some really old, less efficient, and dirtier ones to produce various products from crude oil.
Permitting issues sometimes cause additional absurdly large wastes of energy, as I wrote about a few months ago here where copper source material is shipped all the way to China to be smelted, and then right back here, because the local smelter can’t get permitted.
Their use of aluminum here will be completely remelted and renewed as a new alloy product. There is far too much liability to cobble a consumer product from existing materials. (age, use and current conditions would be highly variable, highly uncertain and ridiculously expensive to certify for reuse without remelt). Luckily, aluminum is well suited for recycling. This is perhaps why more than 75% of aluminum ever mined is still in circulation.
A permit, once granted, is one of the largest moats of any industrial facility.
batteries, battery assemblies (packs) and their frame are highly integrated structural elements of vehicle design. There is only limited use in today’s cars where the components are not designed and evaluated for their subassembly characteristics with respect to durability, structural integrity and crash protection.
In other words, the crash protection is the structural rigidity is the ride quality enhancing NVH reducer is the battery container is the support for the door sill enclosure is the torque box, is…is…is.isisisisisisisisissss.
Cast, extruded or rolled, (or cast->extruded then rolled) the aluminum will be all of the above.
Then the whole article makes no sense at all. If the aluminum harvested from the planes goes back into the aluminum production cycle, then it just becomes general aluminum (of whichever grade, etc) and then gets sold to customers. Some of those customers may be EV manufacturers, and some of that recycled aluminum may be used in battery casings, etc. The article makes it sound like all this aluminum from the planes can (will?) be used for battery casings. I’d guess is the usual work product of the typical pseudo-journalists out there today.
However, as post consumer scrap comes further and further into focus in our sustainable, circular economy, sources like this will be picked over with more ambition. Scrap aluminum is cheap enough to support economics if there isn’t too much transport involved. This will be no different.
EDIT TO ADD:
The company referenced in the article is a scrapper. Plain and simple. The statements made by the scrapper are not congruent with the process and specification requirements for aluminum and other raw materials from OEMs. (like Tesla).
The structural member highlighted below by the 3 red dots is the side sill insert. It is a major crash intrusion component. Structurally, it also supports the batteries and moment inputs into the chassis from wheel assemblies.
Here’s another view from a Tesla presentation. You’ll see the same shape in cross section below: