Automotive & Transportation

Three automotive sustainability challenges facing the industry

Automakers know that improving environmental performance is smart for business and good for the world at-large. As a partner, BASF understands the evolving expectations and can help the automotive industry grow while at the same time create a better future for all.

Committed to sustainability through chemistry, BASF aims to make mobility cleaner and safer. Sustainable development is at the core of our value chain, ensuring each product or solution is beneficial to society and the environment.

From catalysts and coatings to battery materials, BASF produces a number of solutions that help automakers address three main sustainability challenges.


Challenge 1: CO2 fleet emission targets

Electromobility, especially in combination with renewable energy, is an important contribution towards addressing global mobility needs. Full electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids reduce emissions (if powered by renewable energy) and noise, which is particularly beneficial in large cities. Facing strict vehicle emissions standards from governments globally, nearly all automakers are adding electrified vehicles to their fleets. BASF develops solutions that ensure e-mobility is an efficient and attractive way to travel.

Battery materials complement BASF’s automotive portfolio, including advanced combustion engine catalysts, lightweight plastics, insulation systems, coatings, fluids and other product innovations that help address customers’ needs. BASF is a leading advanced cathode active materials supplier for lithium-ion batteries, which determine the efficiency, reliability, cost, durability and ultimately the size of the battery. Consumer demand for long range is driving the need for batteries with increased energy capacity and quick charging capabilities. BASF is focused on developing high-performance battery materials that will help the rise of electric vehicles and contribute to cleaner air.


BASF also integrates environmental protection during production phases. The biomass balance approach reduces emissions along the value chain, replacing fossil resources with bio-based, renewable materials in the first steps of chemical production. Since the exchange of resources begins with BASF’s raw materials, this approach allows customers to minimize emissions within their existing chain. The eSense paint line and other automotive refinish products use BASF’s biomass balance approach and are associated with low greenhouse gas emissions.

Compared to a traditional automotive paint line, Integrated Process eliminates an entire coating step in the painting process. BASF is the leading global supplier for Integrated Process coatings technology, enabling automakers to reduce CO2 emissions up to 20 percent, save energy costs by 15-20 percent and apply materials with greater efficiency.

For another eco-friendly automotive coatings solution, automakers are increasingly using waterborne basecoat systems. Waterborne basecoats replace organic solvents with water to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions. For over 25 years, BASF has produced waterborne basecoats and recently expanded its production capabilities to meet the growing demand for sustainable automotive coatings.


Challenge 2: clean air

Despite increased efforts to electrify vehicles, it is unlikely that gasoline engines will disappear anytime soon. Automakers can leverage BASF’s catalyst portfolio for both gasoline and light duty diesel engines and contribute to improved air quality.

Catalytic converters eliminate more than 95 percent of harmful emissions from gasoline-engine exhausts. BASF’s Three-Way Conversion (TWC) catalyst features a patented construction of Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium that enables oxidation of hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). TWC technology has a lower light-off temperature and minimizes hydrogen sulfide emissions without using nickel.

Combining the functionality of a TWC catalyst with a filter, the single component Four-Way Conversion (FWC) catalyst removes four pollutants from gasoline engine exhaust. In addition to HC, CO and NOx, BASF’s FWC catalyst removes particulate matter (PM) from gasoline engines to ensure vehicle emissions below regulation.

Another solution to help automakers improve air quality is PremAir®, a catalyst coating that is applied to radiators. As air passes over the vehicle’s coated radiator, PremAir® converts up to 90 percent of harmful ground level ozone into oxygen. Ground ozone, which harms lung function and has been linked to premature death, is one of the major constituents of smog and has a global warming potential (GWP) 1,000 times that of CO2. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Air Resources Board of California approved PremAir® as a Direct Ozone Reduction technology, generating exhaust emission credits that automakers can apply to lower fleet emission averages.


BASF also developed EvapTrap technology to drive fuel vapor emissions down with minimal impact on engine performance and system design. EvapTrap™ XC is an advanced cell structure trap that improves the capture of fine hydrocarbons from fuel vapor canisters.


Challenge 3: recycling targets

Along with emissions regulations, automakers must address ambitious recycling targets. Innovations in the chemical industry can contribute to the responsible use of resources and minimal material waste.

BASF’s ChemCycling project is one solution for increasing plastic recyclability. Through ChemCycling, plastic waste is converted into raw material using a thermochemical process. This recycled material can then be used to create new, high-quality chemical products. In fact, Jaguar Land Rover and BASF partnered to develop a front-end carrier prototype for the all-electric I-PACE using plastics derived from the ChemCycling process. An eco-friendly method for upcycling plastics, ChemCycling prevents the disposal of waste material in landfills or incineration plants. BASF is also a co-founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste to advance solutions that reduce plastic waste in the environment.

As part of its automotive sustainability solutions, BASF established techniques for recycling precious metal content from automotive catalytic converters. Metals such as Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium are recovered from spent catalytic converters and reused in the manufacturing of new autocatalysts. Catalysts already contribute to clean air and, when made with recycled natural resources, provide an additional ecological benefit.

Daniel Schatz, Test Engineer (left) and Alexander Schulz, Technician (right) are setting up a catalyst in the exhaust system of a test vehicle and connect measurement ports. In the Hannover Engine Lab future catalyst technologies are tested on their functionality and durability under real life conditions.

The automotive coatings market can also benefit from the use of recycled materials. As part of the 2019 Automotive Color Trends collection, BASF created concepts that included colors made using post-consumer recycled products like pulverized truck tires.

Battery recycling is becoming an important long-term electric market requirement. By 2025, the global stockpile of spent electric vehicle batteries is anticipated to reach 3.4 million. BASF has in-house recycling know-how and patented innovative steps for battery recycling. Our portfolio is focused on cathode active materials for lithium-ion batteries and includes solutions for end-of- life recycling technologies. For example, as a member of the ReLieVe project, BASF helps develop a closed-loop process to material recycling and enable increased production of electric vehicle batteries in Europe.