What is an ELV (End of Life Vehicle)?

What is an ELV (End of Life Vehicle)?
10th June 20205 min read

For anyone that has searched around for information about scrapping their car, they will likely have come across the term “ELV.” Yet what exactly does it mean?

ELV stands for “end of life vehicle” – also referred to as “end of life cars” in some circles – which helps outline its general theme. Yet what relevance does it have to scrapping? Why was it introduced by the EU? What is the current ELV regulation framework?

This guide will explain all that – and more.

What is an end of life vehicle?

The name itself provides a clear answer: an end of life vehicle is one which is not long for this world. However, while the end of life vehicle definition is a clear one, when is it known that a car has traversed its last road?

This is where it can start getting a little complicated. This is because there is no set classification for an ELV. In most cases, the vehicle owner is the one who will determine if it is destined for the scrapyard. They may decide that it’s simply illogical to keep the car running, whether it’s due to significant damage caused by an accident (premature ELV), or because of general wear and tear (natural ELV).

Moreover, an external source will make the decision if the car is an ELV or not. This will typically happen once an insurance company covers the cost of an accident-damaged vehicle, and they then deem it a write-off and have it scrapped. 

What is the End of Life Vehicles Directive?

Dating back to 2000, the ELV Directive was introduced by the European Union in an effort to combat the amount of waste and pollution created by scrapped motor vehicles. The EU End of Life Vehicle Directive incorporates four main elements. These are:


This aspect takes into consideration a number of different elements. For a start, the aim of prevention when dismantling a vehicle is to minimise hazardous substances from being released into the environment. Manufacturers also have an important role to play with prevention. Cars need to be designed so they can be fully dismantled where parts can be reused, recovered, and/or recycled. In addition, producers need to incorporate recyclable materials, and there are also certain materials – including cadmium, mercury, and lead – that are forbidden for the most part.

Material coding

When a vehicle has been de-polluted, various hazardous components are removed. When this is done, the materials need to be properly stored and classified. It’s essential they are not released into the environment.

Treatment obligation

This aspect relates to the setup of the treatment facilities. They require the right technical requirements and premises to do the job to an acceptable standard. Furthermore, this relates to how vehicles are broken down, what fluids are drained, the way materials are removed, and so on.

Collection systems

The collection system is specifically designed to take back any cars that were introduced to the market. This process is done by the scrap yards that complete the ELV, and they have to be willing to pick up the car free of charge. Although there are two exceptions to that latter point: if the vehicle is missing essential components (such as its wheels) and if it contains waste. In these cases, the facility can charge a fee to the last holder of the ELV.

What are the current end of life vehicle regulations?

Now that you’re familiar with the aim of the directive, it’s important to know about the current end of life vehicle legislation. At present, all regulations are applicable to scrap cars and vans with a gross weight set at a maximum of 3,500kg.

To date, the regulations have been introduced in two different parts. The first set came into action in 2003.

The end of life vehicles regulations 2003 brought about two major changes. First of all, it required for all ELV’s to be de-polluted prior to destruction. The de-pollution process revolves around the removal of hazardous materials, battery, fluids, and tyres. Only once they are extracted can the rest of the vehicle be recycled or reused. The other change added the use of a Certificate of Destruction. The COD is issued to the last owner of the ELV, ensuring the car is no longer their legal responsibility.

In 2005, the second lot of regulations came into effect. This included the requirement that producers (manufacturers and professional importers of vehicles) established a collection system network. In addition, at least 85% of each scrapped vehicle had to reach a point where materials were recovered, reused, and recycled. Both the producers and scrapyards were responsible for reaching this figure. Following the updated end of life vehicle regulations 2015, the target jumped to 95%.

What is the end of life vehicle disposal process?

As far as end of life car scrappage is concerned, this is dealt with by an authorised treatment facility (ATF) in the UK. Licenced by the Environment Agency, an ATF has to adhere to stringent guidelines – as set out above – when it comes to end of life car disposal.

What can be recycled in a car?

To begin with, the ATF will decide if the vehicle will become an ELV. Once it is collected or delivered to the scrap yard, the ELV is instantly deemed hazardous waste. They will then follow the steps needed to dismantle the car in a safe, sustainable manner. Before the dismantling begins, however, they will notify the DVLA, who will produce a COD to clarify the vehicle’s destruction.

Only an official ELV scrap yard can take on this task. For those who want to become official ELV recyclers, they have to ensure they have planning permission from the local council, know the proper procedure when dismantling ELVs, and more. Further information can be found on the DVLA’s “Guidance for Waste Sites” webpage.

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