The trend of using recycled and sustainable materials in car interiors is gaining momentum as automakers seek to reduce their carbon footprint and meet environmental targets. Volvo’s newest electric vehicle, the EX30 SUV, is an example of this shift, featuring a cabin made from recycled denim scraps, flax and linseed plants, and ground-up vinyl window frames. Volvo emphasises that sustainability is a form of luxury that appeals to a younger generation.
Other automakers, such as Kia, are also incorporating more recycled and plant-based components into their vehicles. The EV9 from Kia uses 10 sustainable materials, including bio-paint made from rapeseed oil, recycled PET plastic in the seats, and recycled fishing nets in the carpet. Kia’s concept cars, like the EV3, EV4, and EV5, take it a step further by exploring the use of mycelium, the fibre from mushroom roots, for soft-but-strong plant-based parts.
However, there are concerns about the durability of these recycled components and biomaterials. The automotive industry has a long history of using plastic interiors, and ensuring that new sustainable materials are as durable and long-lasting remains a challenge. Kia acknowledges the difficulty in engineering parts with the same look, feel, and longevity as plastic. While the industry believes it has made progress in cracking the code on durability, the cost of developing sustainable materials is still a hurdle.
Kia’s strategy involves starting with its most expensive model, the EV9, with a top price of $73,900, and aims to bring down the cost of sustainable materials over time. The success of these initiatives will depend on whether the recycled components can withstand the wear and tear of daily driving, and if automakers can address the challenges associated with cost and durability in the long run.