Carbon fiber, Alcantara and leather were once the luxury materials for the car interior. But now it’s time for plants.
“Fifty years ago, a leather sofa was the height of luxury,” says Massimo Frascella, creative director of Land Rover. “Now you would never see anything like that in the best hotels and houses. The same process is ongoing in 2019 with cars. Sustainable design has the future in the field of car design.”
Frascella was in Manhattan last month during the New York auto show to unveil Land Rover’s new line of leather-free, fully plant-based materials. The line has been developed for the interiors of the Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover Velar and Jaguar I-Pace. “There is a growing number of people who are concerned about the origin of the textiles and materials in their vehicle,” said the vegan Frascella.
The new interiors are intended to lure consumers for whom the highest form of luxury does not conflict with their environmentally-friendly beliefs. For example, there is a Eucalyptus Melange. This textile is made from eucalyptus fibers. Considerably less water is required for its production than for manufacturing traditional materials such as plastic and Alcantara. Land Rover also uses a sustainable wool blend from textile company Kvadrat, which feels like a soft woolen sweater.
Other car manufacturers also add eco-conscious options to the interior. From 2025, Volvo wants at least a quarter of the plastics used in each new model to be made from recycled materials. Today that is around five percent. In February, Volvo subsidiary Polestar already announced that its first volume model, the Polestar 2, would have a completely plant-based interior.
Toyota, on the other hand, makes seat cushions with glycol from renewable sugar cane and Ford developed soya bean foam. Luxury brands are fully committed to this trend. “This is a global trend that will continue to grow enormously in the coming years,” said Filip Brabec, Audi’s vice president for product management. “It has to do with the fact that consumers are increasingly aware of the environment and how and what we consume.”
Audi has also developed sustainable materials for its electric vehicles. The seats of the Q4 e-Tron SUV are made from recycled plastic and the e-Tron GT offers an interior option of synthetic leather and recycled microfibers. No animal materials were used in the entire car. Synthetic leather alone will form a 45 billion dollar industry by 2025, according to research firm Grand View Research. Now only Bentley has to participate. They still process 14 cowhides in an interior.