Auto Service World
News   June 9, 2023   by Adam Malik

From the Magazine: Ensuring sustainability in brake parts

Attention has turned to the role of friction components in sustainability and emissions. Here’s how manufacturers are responding.

For quite some time, tailpipe emissions drew scorn from several groups outside the automotive industry. The pollutants emitted were contributing to smog-filled cities. Air quality was low. Breathability in congested centres was a challenge.

The first regulations centred around reducing tailpipe emissions were introduced in California in the 1960s. These took aim at limiting the number of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides that cars could emit.

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, setting national standards for air quality. It also mandated vehicle manufacturers reduce their emissions. The first federal standards for vehicle emissions were introduced in 1975.

Further regulations have been introduced over the years with the focus shifting to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and particulate matter.

Canada has followed a similar path. The Canadian government introduced the Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1971 which included regulations on vehicle emissions. Like, the U.S., standards were set in 1975.

The federal government announced in 2011 that it would be adopting emissions standards based on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards — the most stringent in North America. The new regulations were added in 2012 that required automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light-duty trucks.

The regulations set progressively stricter limits on emissions over time. By 2025, the regulations are expected to reduce emissions from new vehicles by 50 per cent compared to 2008 levels.

Parts makers did their job to help. They made components to meet these standards. Those efforts still go on today, but vast improvements have taken place.

Regulators — and consumers — are looking for the next biggest source of vehicle emissions and sustainability improvement opportunities: Brake parts.

“Because tailpipes are pretty low [now for emissions], so they’re looking at brake pads and tires,” observed Mark Phipps, director of engineering at Bosch Brake Components. “So we want to be responsible. And if we are presenting a problem we can solve, then we will go ahead and solve it. That sustainability is really part of that — just our overall environmental stewardship.”

On the emissions side, regulators are looking at particle size. One of the biggest environmental concerns with brake components is the release of particulate matter during braking, contributing to air pollution. Steps have already been taken, like the elimination of copper.

“So anything under 10 microns, and especially under 2.5, they’re really taking a look,” Phipps explained. “Those materials can get into your lungs. And if it’s 2.5 and even nanoparticle, they can even go across cell membranes. So that’s why [regulation] is something that is definitely coming. It’s already there in Europe.”

On the sustainability side, there’s much work that has been done and can be done.

“Sustainability is an integral part of the ZF corporate strategy ‘Next Generation Mobility,’ not only to be a good corporate citizen and act for the greater good, but also because it is a key factor for our future success,” Jim Klein, senior manager of operations and material management at ZF Aftermarket.

“Looking at climate and nature, we recognize that our biggest contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide is through the technologies that we provide — we develop mobility solutions that are clean, safe, convenient and also affordable, and we are developing aftermarket products to support vehicles with this technology as well.”

“Because tailpipes are pretty low [now for emissions], so they’re looking at brake pads and tires.”

One way to make part components more sustainable is to ensure they last longer. Maximizing longevity by default improves sustainability.

Emissions are unavoidable so if companies can reduce what gets tossed in a landfill, the better.

“That gives us the least damage to the environment with our current products,” Phipps said.

Since emissions are inevitable, the goal is to reduce how much there is and what is actually coming out.

“We’re always watching our rotor wares as well because the iron oxides are also quite active,” Phipps said. “So we are very strongly looking at those and we have internal standards we try to work to.”

The process

The journey to sustainability starts by sourcing quality materials. Those, too, have to be done sustainably.

“When we’re developing them, we are looking at the sourcing of the chemicals; can we use renewable sources? Can we use materials that are with their second life, let’s say, so that they’re not going to landfills? We can make better use of them so that we’re managing the resources a bit better,” he told Jobber News in an interview.

And from whom those materials come matters as well.

“[Suppliers] have to go through a full audit from us. We make sure they have quality systems in place, stability of supply and they adhere to the quality statement they give us. So when they give us a certificate of analysis, we actually look at that,” Phipps explained. “We have internal specifications against that chemical.”

Bosch looks to use renewable sources for sustainability and then second life to make sure it’s not consuming first resources when possible.

“We’re still buying quality products, even though there may be a chemical that is recycled, was used for something else; something like used tires, for example,” Phipps said.

Used tires get ground up into fine material which can then be used in brakes, he noted. “And we do; it’s a very beneficial chemical to use in brakes … It’s not really taking something that was scrapped as much as it’s something that’s near its end of life and we can reuse what’s left.”

Then there’s the production of the parts — is it being done in a sustainable manner? Is waste being minimized, energy consumption being reduced and renewable energy sources being used?

ZF’s goal is to have completely green electricity by 2030, and reach 40 per cent by 2025. They’re increasing the use of recycled materials and recycling their own.

“In addition to CO2 reduction in every possible way at ZF and its suppliers, meeting our climate goals also means powering our plants and offices with more green electricity from renewable sources,” Klein said.

ZF’s TRW brake pads manufacturing site in Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara, Mexico, is completely solar-powered. Packaging operations at its Vernon Hills, Illinois, packaging and distribution plant were re-engineered in 2022 to use dimensional scanning and custom-cut boxes to create right-size packaging to reduce material usage.

“When we go into production, we’re looking at our footprint for emissions; we’re looking at our environmental [footprint],” Bosch’s Phipps noted. “So [for] electric usage, we’re trying to be carbon neutral as a company.”

Finally, there’s waste — is the disposal of waste generated from the processes above being done ethically?

“How do we minimize or eliminate waste? So one of those [ways to ensure sustainability] is to really make sure we landfill as minimum as possible, just to make sure our overall long-term footprint is low,” according to Phipps.

Remanufacturing is key for ZF. It allows used products to be returned to as-good or even better-than-new condition — that includes in quality and performance.

“It makes it possible for products to have multiple lifecycles and offers significant time, material, and cost savings when compared to creating a replacement product completely from scratch,” Klein said. “Additionally, remanufacturing fills an increasingly important role in maintaining availability of parts to keep supply chains moving.”

Remanufacturing “makes it possible for products to have multiple lifecycles and offers significant time, material, and cost savings when compared to creating a replacement product completely from scratch.”

Why sell sustainably?

Sustainability should be top of mind for countersales staff when a shop calls in to order parts. They should look at quality as well. And many of the companies that offer quality also offer sustainable products.

“Then why not — why would you want to go with a material that is potentially more detrimental to the environment when there’s one offered at the same or higher quality?” Phipps asked.

No effort is too small when combating climate change, Klein noted.

“While manufacturers and energy producers can have a bigger impact by changing processes and products, success ultimately requires that there is a market demand for those products,” he said. “When you choose or recommend sustainable products, you’re helping to support a larger effort—and without sacrificing product features or quality. You’re effectively casting a vote for sustainability and a better future.”

This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of Jobber News

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