Measuring the environmental impact of automotive repairs
Wout Van Den Abbeele, CEO of Eco Repair Score NV, explains how Eco Repair Score enables consumers to make informed repair decisions and accelerates the use of circular practices in the automotive industry.
Source: Circular Online
Following a collision, the decision to replace a damaged vehicle part instead of repairing it not only has financial implications for the customer but also comes with a significant environmental cost.
Replace vs repair: Philosophy has reached its limits
Every year, an estimated 35 million vehicle repairs after collisions are carried out in Europe. While many repair methods exist for damaged vehicle parts, they often involve directly replacing them with brand-new parts.
For a typical case where a damaged door is replaced with a new part, it results in a climate change impact of about 200 kg CO₂ equivalents. Multiplied by 35 million, this results in 7 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents emitted per year. On an indicative basis, this represents the yearly carbon footprint of about 1 million EU citizens.
Some repair techniques, spot repair and paintless dent repair, are more environmentally friendly than others, but all have a significantly lower environmental impact than a replacement with a newly manufactured part. The good news is that these repair options are also often cheaper for the customer.
In the case of a damaged front door, a reduction of 88% of the climate change impact, and 30% of repair costs can be achieved, based on Expertisebureau Vonck BV car experts’ real-life experience. A reduction figure of 70% of repair costs is often used when discussing the benefits of using second-hand parts.
So far, there is no common way of measuring the environmental impact and environmental friendliness of a vehicle repair. To bridge this gap, the Eco Repair Score has been developed by Expertisebureau Vonck BV in collaboration with VITO, an independent Flemish research institute with more than 20 years of experience in performing LCA studies for industry and government.
This pioneering calculation method measures and communicates the environmental impact of a vehicle repair by way of a single score. The Eco Repair Score is allocated to categories from A to E.
Parameters that can influence the score are the repair method, manufacturing of new parts or paints and their packaging, transporting of parts and products to the repair shop, painting of the parts, recycling of parts or products and their packaging after the repair, and the energy consumption of the repair workshop.
Today, consumers can already use the free calculation tool on the Eco Repair Score website to identify the most environmentally friendly repair option for their damage case. That information then allows them to discuss the repair approach and make a convincing case for a more environmentally friendly solution.
Beneficial for all stakeholders of the automotive collision repair industry
The calculation of the Eco Repair Score takes 18 environmental impact categories into account, including ozone formation, emissions of particulate matter, emissions of carcinogenic substances, acidification, consumption of fossil and mineral resources, and water consumption.
To ensure accuracy and validate the science-based methodological approach used by VITO, an independent third-party critical LCA (Life-cycle assessment) review was requested and has been successfully conducted by an LCA expert and member of the Technical Advisory Board on Environmental Footprint of the European Commission.
Companies can also use the Eco Repair Score to assess, improve and report on their overall environmental performance. Repairers can identify the main ways they’re impacting the environment and implement mitigation measures.
Insurers, fleet owners and lease companies can orient customers and manage their portfolio of authorised repairers based on a “minimum score” requirement. Given the upcoming implementation of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and the necessity to report on their scope 3 emissions, these companies can also underpin their Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance (ESG) reporting obligations with ready-to-use data.
Showing the way, AXA Belgium is the first insurer to use this solution at a large scale and has recently announced their intention to reduce their CO₂ emissions by 25% by the end of 2026 thanks to the use of the Eco Repair Score.
As the Eco Repair Score has been automated and is now compatible with software solutions used by insurers and fleet owners for repair estimates, Eco Repair Score NV want to go further. By 2027, we envisage the Eco Repair Score as an industry-wide environmental impact scoring system for the repair and maintenance of vehicles, which enables all European consumers to make more informed and environmentally friendly repair choices.
Inspired by previous and ongoing eco-scoring developments in other sectors, we have identified several levers and a possible pathway for achieving this vision.
One thing is certain: the transition towards a circular automotive industry will be collaborative and making environmentally friendly repair and maintenance activities the norm will be necessary.