Shape, Hydro partner on recycled automotive components

New brand of aluminum is made from 75% recycled, post-consumer scrap.
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An automotive parts supplier on the lakeshore has partnered with a Norwegian industrial company on a sustainable solution for the U.S. automotive industry.

Grand Haven-based Shape Corp. and Norsk Hydro ASA (Hydro) earlier this month shared details of a new development in a collaboration that has been seven years in the making.

The two will introduce Hydro CIRCAL — the company’s brand of aluminum made with a minimum of 75% recycled, post-consumer scrap — to the U.S. market for the automotive industry.

As the first to pioneer the sustainable solution in the U.S. market, Shape said it plans to produce a variety of automotive components using the recycled aluminum.

Ed Pleet. Courtesy Shape Corp.

“We’re really excited to be able to work together to bring this to the market,” said Ed Pleet, chief technology officer for Shape. “Our partnership has gone back many years, and we are moving forward aggressively together in this development.”

Trond Gjellesvik, president of Hydro Aluminum Metals in North America, echoed the significance of the collaboration’s efforts.

“We have been working toward the automotive segment and our customer base in that segment for quite a few years now,” Gjellesvik said. “To have a partner like Shape in the forefront of this development is really exciting for us to be experiencing.”

At the forefront of this development is the CIRCAL aluminum brand, which has a CO2 footprint of 2.3 kilograms or less. The recycled aluminum is expected to produce an estimated 70% CO2 reduction compared to the North American average for aluminum.

This estimation includes Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions used to categorize what a company and its value chain create in their operations.

Through advanced processing technology, Hydro is able to recycle the aluminum with reduced energy use during the production phase. Specifically, recycling the aluminum uses only 5% of the energy used to produce primary aluminum.

The CIRCAL material is comprised of end-of-life scrap, or materials previously used in a car, building or other post-consumer setting. The recycled product continues to withhold metallic properties and durability.

For Shape, this capability will come into play with the company’s focus on crash-management systems.

“One of the things that’s really exciting about this sustainable material is that it’s a no-compromise type of solution,” Pleet said. “The alloys are capable of high-energy management and are high-strength materials, which is great for its applications.”

One of the distinct benefits of recycled aluminum is its lightweight functionality. Lightweighting is a growing concept in the automotive industry, especially with an increasing demand for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Aluminum plays a key role in the lightweighting process as vehicles can use less electricity and fewer or smaller batteries to travel the same distances.

“The automotive industry is where the benefits of lightweight and infinitely recyclable aluminum really can make a difference to consumers looking to reduce transport costs and emissions,” said Eivind Kallevik, executive vice president of Hydro Aluminum Metals.

In the U.S., Hydro has been involved in aluminum recycling for several decades. The company has plants in Henderson, Kentucky, and in Commerce, Texas, where the first batch of certified CIRCAL will be produced before delivery to Shape.

Hydro also will bring its aluminum recycling process to Michigan. April 2022 marked the start of construction for a new Hydro plant in Cassopolis where production will begin in 2023.

Once ramped up to full production, which is slated for 2024, the facility will have the ability to produce 265 million pounds of aluminum extrusion ingot per year.

Shape also is working to expand its extrusion capacity with a new 320,000-square-foot plant located in Trenton, Ohio, to support ongoing industry growth. 

Both Shape and Hydro continue to drive toward overall sustainability goals. Shape has pledged to reduce its global carbon emissions 30% by 2025, have carbon-neutral operations by 2030 and be fully carbon neutral as a company by 2035.

By 2025, Hydro said its ambition is to double its recycling of post-consumer scrap to reduce its carbon footprint. The company’s plan is to cut CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030 as well.

Gjellesvik said these goals can be a key driver for the industry of original equipment manufacturers and their own efforts to become carbon neutral.

“Hopefully, this is the first step in turning more recycling activity as green as possible in North America,” Gjellesvik said.

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