End of Life Vehicles (ELV)

The ELV directive (#2000/53/EC) covers disposal of vehicles and their components in the EU.  For details and amendments see the EUROPA website.  It singles out four heavy metals whose use has been severely curtailed on all vehicles sold in the EU since July 1, 2003: lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium.  In a later amendment to the directive, maximum concentration values of 0.1 wt.% for lead, Cr6+ and mercury, and 0.01 wt.% for cadmium, were established for each “homogeneous material” in a vehicle.

The limit on Cr6+ effectively precludes the use of chromate conversion coatings to enhance corrosion resistance on parts made from galvanized steel, which is a widely used material in the automotive industry.  While two exemptions allow the temporary continued use of Cr6+ for corrosion prevention on new vehicles, the industry has already begun a major effort to switch from Cr6+ to Cr3+ conversion coatings for galvanized steel and other zinc coating applications on vehicles.

Exceptions and exemptions

ELV applies to any on-road vehicle or equipment (including trailers) capable of speeds greater than 25 kph.  However, it excludes off-road vehicles, railcars, mining and agricultural equipment, and vintage cars.

Specific exemptions from the rule have been granted, some only temporary but some permanent.

Temporary exemptions from ELV requirements.   

Permanent exemptions from the requirements include up to 0.35 wt.% lead in steels, up to 0.4 wt.% lead in aluminum alloys, lead in solders, Cr6+ in absorption refrigerators for motor homes, and mercury in instrument panels.  In addition, lead, Cr6+, cadmium and mercury can continue to be used in spares for older vehicles (sold before July 2003).

The legislation also sets targets for reuse, recycling and recovery.  It was intended that reuse and recovery should be in place by January 1, 2006 for 85% of vehicles, and reuse and recycling for 80% of vehicles, although this goal was not met.