Kia takes a holistic approach to the environmental impact of its products, encompassing manufacturing, use and disposal. The recently launched all-electric Soul EV demonstrates how cars can be green before they even leave the factory through the use of significant quantities of recycled bio-based materials in its interior construction; Kia is a world leader in the development of hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles while continuing to lower the fuel consumption and emissions of its combustion-engined cars; and it has set itself the challenging target of zero waste from scrapped cars as soon as possible.
That may take some time until new dismantling and recovery techniques are developed, but Kia is already meeting the latest EU directive, which requires 85 per cent of a scrapped vehicle to be recycled or re-used and a further 10 per cent to be used for energy recovery from the combustion of non-recyclable residues.
At the vast Hwasung factory in Korea, Kia has been developing end-of-life treatment technologies to reduce the environmental and social impact of its cars since 2005. The Hwasung ARR has helped in the way Kias are designed and assembled as well as with the choice of materials used in manufacturing.
Modern cars contain explosive materials to trigger their airbags in an accident and large quantities of environmentally hostile solids and liquids which must all be recycled or disposed of safely. Metal components such as the car body, engine and gearbox are relatively easy to recycle, as is the battery and exhaust catalyst, but plastics and rubbers present a greater challenge. Now only five per cent of a scrapped car is sent to landfill or incinerated without energy recovery.
Kia has developed an eight-stage dismantling process at its ARR centres to recoup as many materials as possible for re-use while ensuring the few components which cannot be recycled are disposed of with the minimum environmental impact. Once the car to be scrapped has been registered it is taken into an explosives chamber where its airbags are triggered in a spectacular display of pyrotechnics. The car is then pre-treated for scrappage before all fluids are removed. The exterior, interior and powertrain components are systematically removed in sequence and finally the remnants of the car are crushed in a press.
The ARR centres work on a conveyor system, just like when cars are being made, so that large numbers can be dismantled and recycled in a short time span. These Kia technologies are used to dispose of crash test vehicles internally, however they're also made available to other firms in the automotive industry to develop end of life vehicle recycling standards and efficiency.
With the Soul EV, Kia has demonstrated how recycled materials can re-appear in new cars to improve not only the general environment but also that in the car. In total, 23 parts - including the sun visors, luggage area side trim, crash-pad skin and the interior paints - are made from bio-based materials. This amounts to 10 per cent of the car's interior. Bio-degradable plastic, bio-foam and bio-fabric are all used in the construction of the Soul EV's interior. As a result, the car has been awarded UL Environment Validation. UL (Underwriters Laboratories) is a global independent safety science company.
The whole-life global warming potential of the Soul EV is 39.7 per cent less than with the 1.6-litre diesel model - a figure which has been verified by the TUV, Germany's testing, inspection and certification agency.