Jaguar and Land Rover has now become the latest of a host of carmakers to begin wooing customers with sustainable, conscience-soothing materials, announcing this month that future cars will feature interiors using nylon made from old fishing nets.
The makers hope this strategy will tempt younger people who do not see the need to own a car or persuade potential owners worried about the environmental impact of owning their own transport.
Cleaning up their act may also help carmakers to win customers at a time when car sales have plummeted, owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cutting-edge alternatives are also ideal for saving weight in the electric and hybrid segments or reducing the emissions of conventional cars with petrol and diesel engines.
Jaguar Land Rover said the regenerated nylon called Econyl will go into floor mats and trims as part of its “Destination Zero” mission to reduce the environmental impact of its models.
The nylon is gained from waste which is broken down into raw material and rewoven as yarn.
During the process, non-nylon, metallic materials or copper sulphate which is used for preventing sea-grass growing on fishing nets, are removed and sent to alternative industries for recycling.
The carmaker said every 10,000 tonnes of Econyl saves 70,000 barrels of crude oil and avoids the equivalent of 65,100 tonnes of carbon emissions.
The use of sustainable materials in cars is not new and Land Rover already offers a material called Kvadrat on its all-electric I-Pace model.
This combines durable wool with a suede cloth made from 53 recycled plastic bottles per vehicle. Ford’s EcoSport has carpets made from recycle bottles and the Renault Zoe uses fabrics made from cut-up textiles and recycled seat belts.
BMW pioneered eco-friendly interiors back in 2013. Surfaces inside the i3 all-electric derive from the mallow plant which is used to make lightweight kenaf fibre similar to jute.
Meanwhile, Hyundai has since combined recycled plastic with powdered wood and ground-down volcanic stone to save weight in its Ioniq battery-electric.
“Of course, there have always been insulation mats made from renewable raw materials or recycled waste, ” said Steffen Koehl from Mercedes-Benz which also uses sustainable materials in its cars. “Now we are taking such materials out of the shadows and are daring to show them off.”
The Mercedes AVTR concept car unveiled at last January’s CES electronics fair in Las Vegas, the United States, was a showcase for recycling, with decorative elements made of rattan wood and olive-tanned leather.
Skoda’s VisionIN study, which debuted at the Delhi Motor Show in February, had vegan panels on the floor and consoles and seat covers fashioned from leather that has been treated with oak extracts or rhubarb instead of chemicals.
“Such considerations are no accident, ” said designer Lutz Fuegener who is also a professor at Pforzheim University, Germany. “The topic of sustainability has been coming on strong in the automotive industry in recent years.”
The technical challenge is to make the recycled materials both safe and attractive to look at, said Fuegener. Some alternative materials cannot be used in cars since they may splinter or burn in an accident, posing potential hazards to occupants. In some cases, the materials are simply not durable enough.
Conservative customers also have fixed ideas about what constitutes a high-quality interior, said Fuegener, making the move away from wood and leather harder for manufacturers. – dpa/Martin Bensley
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