The Circular Cars Initiative

With the engagement of 100 plus global organizations and 250 executives – the Circular Cars Initiative (CCI) launched at Davos 2020 – is rapidly accelerating the transformation of circular manufacturing and business models within the automotive and mobility industry.

Context: The automotive industry, which currently contributes over 10% of industrial emissions, must embrace life cycle decarbonization to meet the goal embodied in the Paris Agreement’s net-zero target. To date, decarbonization has focused on electrifying powertrains. But electrification is not the sole answer to the decarbonization challenge. The automotive industry must also tackle emissions embedded in vehicle materials – which will grow in importance in tandem with powertrain electrification. The growing market share of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) – and the greener energy mix required to power them – will increase materials’ share of automotive life-cycle emissions in both relative and absolute terms. Therefore, the time to shift to circularity in automotive is now – when huge investments into the emerging electric mobility ecosystems are taken. Circular Economy measures, including vehicle sharing, smart charging, refurbishing, repurposing, and recycling, are effective measures to lower lifecycle environmental footprints and costs. However, creating business value from circularity is challenging for most solutions today, as they require further industry alignment and joint development of standards. Therefore, cross-value chain partnerships and collaboration are crucial.

The Circular Cars Initiative is a partnership between stakeholders from the automobility ecosystem (e.g. industry, policymakers and fleet purchasers) to eliminate or minimize total lifecycle emissions with a special emphasis on manufacturing emissions. The initiative’s overarching goal is to achieve an automobility system that is convenient, affordable and firmly grounded within a 1.5°C climate scenario by 2030.

The term “circular car” refers to a theoretical vehicle that has maximized materials efficiency. This notional vehicle would produce zero materials waste and zero pollution during manufacture, utilization and disposal – which differentiates it from today’s zero emission vehicles. While cars may never be fully “circular,” the automotive industry can significantly increase its degree of circularity. Doing so has the potential to deliver economic, societal and ecological dividends.

Our approach:

1.  A collaborative ecosystem-based program: The Circular Cars Initiative is led by the World Economic Forum in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and with the European Institute for Innovation and Technology’s Climate-KIC, SYSTEMIQ, Accenture and McKinsey. Across different topics and workstreams, CCI also collaborates with other partners such as The Climate Group, MovinOn, Global Battery Alliance, Responsible Steel and RMI.

2.  CCI develops, implements, and scales up relevant action workgroups and pilot projects that can be easily adopted by companies, policymakers, legislators, and regulators worldwide.

3.  Based on CCI community, partners develop options for policy action. Having started with EU policy, 2022 plans include expansion to Chinese and U.S. coverage.

4.  Continuous engagement and knowledge sharing via community meetings, workshops, and dialogues. 



Our impact:

1. CCI is informing the automotive circularity Policy Agenda

2. CCI’s pilot projects and dialogues are catalyzing an Industry Level Change 

The Circular Cars Initiative’s ambition is to create the biggest circularity focused multi-stakeholder coalition in the mobility sector. We are actively looking for automotive OEMs, automotive suppliers (components/ battery/ chemicals/ metal), policy makers, as well as civil society representatives and academics to join us. 

For more details, reach out to Abhishek Gupta, Global Lead, Circular Cars Initiative (abhishek.gupta@weforum.org)

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