More than 100,000 tonnes of aluminium are processed annually in the BMW Group plant in Landshut in Lower Bavaria. The plant showcases sustainable use of the light metal.
Aluminium is unique among the metals and holds many records: for a long time, it was more valuable than gold. And aluminium extraction requires vast amounts of energy. However, with a specific weight of around 2.7 g/cm³ it is approximately three times lighter than iron, resistant against corrosion and very strong. So it comes as no surprise that it is an ideal material for making cars.
In the BMW Group plant in Landshut in Lower Bavaria, aluminium is used to cast crankcases, cylinder heads and other components for BMW premium cars and motorcycles. Aluminium components also play an important role in the further development of electric mobility. Lightweight designs can compensate for the higher weight of electric cars as a result of heavy batteries. “We process around 500 tonnes of aluminium per day”, says Dr. Stefan Kasperowski, the general manager of the BMW Group plant in Landshut. This is the equivalent in weight of 25 Eiffel Towers per year.
However, it is not just the production of aluminium that is laborious and energy-intensive, processing the metal is too. The BMW Group is thus continuously developing new ideas and concepts for making the production processes for cast components as sustainable as possible. Among other measures, the BMW engineers established a closed loop for waste material from the casting process. The residual materials from the different components are collected at each casting machine in such a way that the different types of materials do not mix. In this way the aluminium waste can be easily melted down and reused for the same components. Approximately half of the aluminium used in Landshut comes from this kind of cycle.
In addition, energy saving measures were implemented. The energy efficiency of the 600-degree hot smelters, for example, has been increased by almost 20 per cent. This is achieved through a pre-heating process for the melting material and especially the burner air. However, at BMW, responsibility for processing such a high-grade material like aluminium does not stop at the factory gates. “For us, it is extremely important that the raw materials for our production processes are mined in an environmentally and ethically responsible manner”, plant manager Kasperowski points out.
The BMW Group’s commitment to making the production processes in its Landshut plant more sustainable has now also been recognised by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI). The ASI is an international initiative funded by environmental and industry organisations, aluminium producers and processors, advocating an ecologically and socially responsible value chain. After an extensive audit, the ASI has confirmed that the light metal foundry in Landshut is committed to using aluminium as a raw material in a conscious and responsible manner. The light metal foundry in the Landshut plant has been certified according to the „Material Stewardship“ ASI sustainability standard. And plant manager Kasperowski says there is more to come: “The BMW Group communicates directly with aluminium suppliers and recycling partners with the aim of expanding ASI certification along the entire materials cycle, starting with the mine.”