Vegan cars are almost here
September 29 2021 10:10 PM
Ghanim al-Sulaiti
Ghanim al-Sulaiti

By Ghanim al-Sulaiti

This week I have been inspired by an announcement of an emerging trend: vegan cars — and yes, there are more of them, and they’re almost here. Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars said that its new vehicle range will go leather-free or ‘vegan-friendly’ by 2030, offering instead bio-based and recycled materials to a customer base that increasingly wants sustainably sourced products.
“We’ve got a new generation of customers coming through, they’re far more interested in the products they buy and having an ethical story behind them,” Robin Page, Volvo’s Head of Design, told media. “They want to understand where the materials come from.”
Volvo said the shift recognises customer concerns over animal welfare issues in the leather industry and the environmental impacts of cattle farming. It also coincides with the sustainable aspirations of Volvo’s plan to offer an all-electric car line-up by 2030.
Volvo says its move towards leather free interiors is also driven by a concern about the “negative environmental impacts of cattle farming” including deforestation.
“Livestock is estimated to be responsible for around 14pc of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, with the majority coming from cattle farming,” the company said. Instead of leather, Volvo will offer its customers alternatives such as sustainable materials made from biobased and recycled sources. It’s something I’ve personally thought about in my assessments of electric car options: what about the leather? 
Volvo say their current all-electric C40 Recharge model is already leather-free, and the company is exploring using materials such as Nordico – which made from forestry by-products, recycled corks and plastic bottles - that company’s head of design said has the same “softness and warmth” as leather. 
“For someone who loves leather but is aware of the negative effects of leather on the environment, this is a good, modern way to capture the properties but is the right material for the future,” he said.
The carmaker also aims to use recycled polyester to cut its carbon footprint and linen from flax plants grown in Sweden in between crops, which replenishes the soil. Volvo will also use flax fibres for door panels.
“Consumers are not just focused on the sustainability of the end product but also the material that goes into it, including the sourcing” said Stuart Templar, Volvo’s Director of Global Sustainability.
Volvo will also offer wool blend options from suppliers that are certified to source responsibly, as the company looks to ensure animal welfare in its wool supply chain. “Wool is kind of miraculous. It doesn’t get the respect it deserves,” the company detailed in a report on “the rise of tomorrow’s materials”.
“It can be so beautiful and is such a versatile material. It’s durable, long-lasting, self-cleaning and, importantly, natural,” its report found.
* The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92  

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