The environment: In the green over the full lifecycle

The environment and the new A Class

  • Overall energy consumption drops by nine per cent

  • Significant rise in use of high-quality recycled and natural materials

Low pollutant emissions and fuel consumption, reduced noise emissions, increased recycling and wider use of natural materials together make up the template for an environmentally compatible vehicle – and the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class fits this description. The new car’s eco friendly concept is based on two pillars: the present and the future.
  • The present: A combination of technological innovations in the body, chassis and engine design for the A-Class and advances in manufacturing processes allow Mercedes-Benz to reduce the emissions generated through the production and use of the new car. Examples of these successful developments include the solvent-free powder clearcoat, which protects the body, and the new or modified petrol engines. Despite their higher output, these power units consume up to ten per cent less fuel and meet the stringent EU 4 exhaust emissions limits.
  • The future: With its far-sighted selection of materials, Mercedes-Benz is making a crucial contribution to preserving resources and lowering the levels of emissions which can be produced through the material recycling process for cars after they have reached the end of a long service life.

Carbon dioxide emissions cut by around nine per cent

This is all part of an integrated concept, which covers the A-Class’ entire lifecycle. Experts in the Environment-friendly Product Development department at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre (MTC) have compiled an impressive pool of knowl-edge as part of an environment-oriented assessment programme carried out over the full course of the A-Class’ service life. Emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide produced in the manufacture of the new A-Class and by its use over a full lifecycle will be around nine per cent below the levels of the outgoing model.

Primary energy consumption has been reduced by roughly the same degree, falling from 522 gigajoules for the first-generation A-Class to a total of 479 gj in the new car. This equates to the energy stored in some 1300 litres of petrol.

With the new A-Class, Mercedes-Benz has also made remarkable progress in reducing the emissions levels of the outgoing car in terms of other pollutants, such as:

Nitrogen oxides: down 17 per cent
Sulphur dioxide: down 6 per cent
Volatile hydrocarbons: down 8 per cent
Special waste materials: down 10 per cent

The Mercedes experts have looked at over 40,000 individual processes as part of its integrated environment analysis for the new A-Class. The overall assessment covers a total of more than 200 “input” factors (resources) and some 300 “output” parameters (emissions).

Recycling quota stands at 85 per cent

Mercedes’ “Design for Environment” philosophy begins with the selection of materials. Only materials boasting low resources consumption, outstanding recycling properties, a minimal energy requirement and low emissions in their manufacturing, processing and use are permitted in the construction of the Stuttgart-based brand’s passenger cars. On this basis, the new A-Class already satisfies the recycling quota of 85 per cent stipulated Europe-wide from 2006 and is also set to meet the recycling target of 95 per cent – with a maximum of ten per cent of the car parts being allowed to be utilised for incineration to produce energy - planned for implementation in 2015.

The new Mercedes compact car consists largely of materials for which recycling processes have already been developed and tested:

  • Steel and iron-based materials: 65.7 per cent
  • Plastics: 17.7 per cent
  • Non-ferrous metals and light alloys: 7.8 per cent

54 components approved for recycling

When it comes to preserving resources, Mercedes-Benz gives high-quality secondary raw materials priority wherever possible. MTC experts have had some positive experiences with the use of recycled plastics and are committed to channelling plastics from end-of-life vehicles and scrapped car parts back into the production of new vehicles. A total of 54 components in the new A-Class with a combined weight of 34 kilograms are made from high-quality recycled plastics – equating to 21 per cent of all the plastic parts used. The number of approved recycled components for the new car is therefore more than three times higher than was the case for the outgoing model.

Proportion of components (by weight) made from natural materials rises by 98 per cent

The development and production of car parts made from renewable raw materials is another important part of preserving resources and of Mercedes’ “Design for Environment” philosophy. Mercedes-Benz sees the use of natural materials as an important contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. After all, using renewable raw materials helps to put the brakes on the consumption of traditional energy resources such as coal, natural gas and petroleum.

In the A-Class, 26 components with a combined weight of 23 kilograms were manu-factured using natural materials. The total weight of components made from renew-able raw materials has therefore risen by around 98 per cent from the levels in the outgoing model. One example of the use of natural materials in automotive construc-tion are the covers for the front seat backrests in the new A-Class, which consist of a combination of plastic and flax fibres.

And Mercedes engineers have also opted for a natural raw material to ensure fuel tank ventilation, with olive wood used in the production of an activated charcoal filter. This microporous material absorbs the hydrocarbon emissions and is self-regenerating.

The latest tests carried out as part of DaimlerChrysler’s materials research show that natural fibres are also extremely effective in material composites. Indeed, they could even replace glass fibre as a strengthening agent in plastic parts for car bodies thanks to their exceptional bending and tensile strength. Natural fibres also stand out from glass fibres with their lower weight, ease of use and suitability for recycling. Another source of natural materials is the abaca plant, which grows in the Philippines. Its fibres, which are extremely elastic and boast impressive tensile strength, are currently being tested for use in the manufacture of part of the underfloor panelling of the new A-Class. Abaca fibres are considered to be the strongest and longest natural fibres on the planet.

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