When it comes to vehicle repairs, the damage is traditionally estimated in euros. The environmental impact of the chosen method of repair is not immediately taken into account. That is about to change because, with the Eco Repair Score®, expertise agency Vonck and VITO are launching a quantitative measurement that allows policymakers, repairers, insurers, leasing companies and car experts to accurately define and achieve their environmental targets. The development of this standard is among other things based on the scientific support from VITO which has a lot of expertise in ecological sustainability assessments. 

Every year an estimated one million vehicle repairs are carried out in our country, of which about half are reported to insurers. In the case of repairs, the damage and everything that goes into the repair, such as parts and products, are estimated in purely financial terms - in other words, in euros. 

Objective figures 

However, this purely financial accounting ignores another important cost that is not borne by the party at fault in a claim, but by the environment. "And it shouldn't be underestimated," says Wout Van Den Abbeele of expertise agency Vonck, one of the major players in the Belgian vehicle expertise market. The ultimate environmental impact depends highly on the chosen methods of repair, available materials, products, etc. The logistics behind the repair also play an important role. How and where from are parts delivered, what journeys, and thus transport emissions, does the damaged vehicle make to and from the repair shop? 

The main sources of environmental impact are known, but how significant are they and how much weight do they have in the overall picture of a vehicle repair? To gain insight into this, the Eco Repair Score® has called upon VITO, which has a wide expertise in evaluating and monitoring the environmental impact of products and processes, including circular strategies such as repair and recycling, thanks in part to scientifically sound methods including life cycle analysis. VITO's experts have put all relevant aspects of vehicle repairs into a scientific model that provides objective figures through a computation. The output is a quantitative measure that links a concrete score to the environmental impact of a vehicle repair.  

The result is a thorough determination of the environmental impact. "We do not only consider the difference between replacement and repair (the latter is usually more environmentally friendly). We also map out the origin of parts," says Van Den Abbeele. "Are they brought in from Germany or from South Korea, and what packaging is used?" But our analysis goes beyond the mere parts. "We also take into account, for example, waste production, energy and water consumption and the replacement vehicle from the repairer." 
Over the past few months, expertise agency Vonck and VITO have tested a proof of concept of the model based on data from parts in the BMW 3 series. "Based on the data provided, we examined, for example, where the greatest opportunities lie for reducing environmental impact," says Philip Marynissen of VITO. Thus, the Eco Repair Score® not only gives an indication of the environmental impact, but also provides information to start reducing that impact. 

This so-called Eco Repair Score® was introduced at the beginning of 2021 in response to the need to reduce the environmental impact of vehicle repairs in a measurable way. Even those who wanted to make efforts to reduce the impact on the environment lacked quantitative benchmarks because they simply did not exist.   

In the first phase, the Eco Repair Score® is calculated on the basis of a model which incorporates repair data for the  thirty parts most frequently damaged in a collision. "In a next stage we will link the model to databases featuring all the parts used in all vehicles from the last 12 to 15 years," says Marynissen. "That is hundreds of thousands of parts." Thanks to VITO's expertise, the model can use all this information to calculate a reliable environmental impact score. 

Great value for the sector 

The Eco Repair Score® provides useful information for all players in the vehicle repair market, not least insurers and leasing companies with their own networks of authorised repairers. "When quoting a repair, they can then take into account not only the cost, quality and service but also the environmental score," says Van Den Abbeele. "TIin this way, they can encourage repairers to start assessing and reducing their environmental impact." 
The Eco Repair Score® can thus not only be used for individual repairs, but also for an Eco Repair Scan of entire portfolios and the presentation of an Eco Repair Index for the whole automotive sector. 

Great value for policymakers 

The repair industry can achieve a lower environmental impact through circular strategies. There is an environmental benefit if a part is repaired rather than immediately replaced with a new one. Marynissen: "Replacing a part with minor damage is usually not a good idea." Nevertheless, in recent decades, the market has shifted towards replacement rather than repair. "That is easier of course because it takes less qualified staff," says Van Den Abbeele. "Repairs indeed require specific skills," Marynissen agrees. "This project demonstrates once again the need to continue training our quality workforce in order to continue to distinguish ourselves as a region with the knowledge and skills required to work in a more circular manner. We know that employment in the circular economy is growing faster than in the regular economy. Demand for technicians who can carry out high-quality repairs, such as 'spot repairs' on vehicles, is expected to increase." 
The Eco Repair Score® will be tested in the coming months as part of a pilot project in cooperation with insurers. It is then important to further scale up the model behind the score and to market it as a true 'environmental label' for vehicle repairs - also with a view to a future roll-out on a European scale. 
The Eco Repair Index provides policymakers with the missing tool to assess the environmental impact of vehicle repairs, which they can then use to design policies to reduce this environmental impact. 
In the case of VITO, the expertise provided cannot be considered separately from other activities that determine the environmental impact of vehicles, such as choice of materials during design, emissions during use, and dismantling at end of life. That is why VITO was recently involved in the Circular Cars Initiative, a project of the World Economic Forum to make the automotive sector more sustainable and bring it into line with the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

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