Corporate companies want more than just a supply of electric vehicles for their fleets. With an eye on environmental and social and governance (ESG) considerations, corporate fleets want to understand the sustainability of the company producing the fleet cars, whether they are buying or leasing.
“Do we really believe that in five years from now, when the share of electric vehicles in major markets such as the U.K. will be very high, will people really say, ‘Hey, the zero grams of CO2 emitted by a Tesla is exactly the same as from a Jeep, a VW, a BMW, a Mercedes—they are all the same?’ No, they are not, and we are going to be challenged by different aspects,” says Dr. Thomas Becker, vice president of sustainability and mobility at BMW Group. He says that corporates are now digging deeper into the provenance of the OEM’s manufacturing process.
“Some of our corporate customers are already starting to ask: What is the overall footprint of what you are trying to sell? How much is in your value chain? How much electricity will you use? How much weight, how much resources do you use? So we need, and we want to be part of the conversation around these issues.”
Becker says that there also needs to be a reappraisal of material use in car manufacture.
“We need to demonstrate that luxury does not mean waste. How can we reuse resources and make it premium? I don’t think anyone objects to recycled aluminum, so why can’t we recycle any material? Some are more challenging than others, such as wood, while recycled textiles using plastic must have an absolute premium look and feel. But I think using secondary material blends into the notion of what premium means and creates greater brand credibility.”
Becker reckons that using recycled material is now going to the heart of making BMWs. In the R&D department using primary materials might be the de facto default position, but Becker says that the research teams are required to use secondary materials first.
It’s what BMW calls the circular economy: a greater number of electric vehicles on the road with a focus on reduced use of primary materials and a lessened dependence on environmentally harmful exploitation of resources and their often CO2-intensive processing—especially when it comes to car manufacturing, one of the most resource-intensive industries.
As part of this holistic approach to sustainability, the BMW Group aims to significantly increase the percentage of secondary materials in its vehicles.
“On average, current vehicles are manufactured using almost 30% recycled and reusable materials. With the ‘Secondary First’ approach, we plan to successively raise this figure to 50%,” adds Becker.
To demonstrate its approach to making sustainable fleet vehicles, Becker points to the BMW i Vision Circular, first shown at the 2021 IAA Mobility in Frankfurt, Germany.
He says: “The overall design goal was to create a vehicle optimized for closed material cycles. And it does this with a 100% use of recycled materials that can also be recycled.” Even the car’s solid-state battery is made from recycled materials.
He also says that company car fleets are the quickest route to rolling out such new technology to demonstrate to a wider audience that sustainable tech does work.
“If you look at the markets which are moving quickly on sustainability, it is those with a strong corporate car sales share. So this is why demonstrating that sustainability can be moved forward is absolutely crucial to BMW.”