October 2022

Sustainable Insights

The new era of eco-responsible luxury cars

What do BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar, Roll-Royce, Bentley, Porsche all have in common? Apart from being luxury, they are all embracing sustainable exterior and interior alternatives in their manufacturing processes. After all, the next generation of movers (or buyers) are mobilizing their green agenda very seriously. And this is where all the roads lead to.

The progress of a mobility sector defines the economic progress of a nation because this calculates growth in qualitative as well as quantitative terms.

Source: Innovative materials/group.mercedes-benz.com

But there is a flip side that cannot be overlooked. Mobility, or the transportation sector, is currently the largest producer of energy-related CO₂ emissions, accounting for 24% (based on global transport emissions in 2018, which totalled 8 billion tonnes of CO₂), and 74.5% of transport emissions come from road vehicles. And the demand for transportation is expected to rise in the coming years as we see a rise in the population and a growth in urban areas. Mobility depends highly on fossil fuels, which release a large amount of CO₂ into the atmosphere. But major technological innovations can help offset this rise in demand.

Did you know? The transportation industry is a major direct contributor to employment and national and global GDP. In addition, the efficient mobility of people, goods, and materials is a vital enabler of sustainable social and economic development, connecting people to basic services, jobs, markets, and each other. Transportation can play a crucial role in achieving the UN SDGs. Innovative mobility trends, such as shared mobility and sustainable options for people, can help achieve global sustainability goals.

Look beyond the exterior

When we think of electric vehicles, or EVs, we immediately identify them as being run on batteries, or in these current times as hybrid vehicles. However, with rapidly evolving demographics and consequent massive urbanisation, vehicle systems will have to be redesigned to preserve the environment while meeting the increasing demand for mobility.

Here, recycling and upcycling the interiors is becoming increasingly popular. Gone are the days when leather seats were the epitome of luxury. Today, leading car brands are looking for alternates that can push the industry’s mission towards sustainability. Those are biodegradable alternatives that will not harm the environment once removed from the vehicle.

Source: Bentley EXP 100 GT uses a range of sustainable materials/luxebook.in

Source: Vehicle interior: Sustainably processed leather/group.mercedes-benz.com

Aligning themselves with the goals of the Paris Agreement, car manufacturers are slowly but surely shying away from traditional materials such as leather, and plastics to reduce their carbon footprint. At the same time, moving to eco-friendly alternatives that use fewer resources and cut down on emissions, whilst also focusing on their ‘luxury’ USP (unique selling point).

We focus on a few sustainable textile and body part options that have seen success in the recent past and are the crowning glories of world-class auto brands today.


With a hundred years of history backing them, hydrofoils are known for their high speeds. Swiftness is achieved by using aircraft-like wings beneath the craft to lift the hull out of the water and ‘fly’ above the surface to reduce drag. A hydrofoil is a lifting surface, or foil, that operates in water. They are similar in appearance and purpose to the aerofoils used by aeroplanes. Boats that use hydrofoil technology are also termed hydrofoils. As a hydrofoil craft gains speed, the ‘wings’ lift the boat’s hull out of the water, decreasing drag and allowing greater speeds. This hugely reduces water resistance and fossil fuel consumption by 80%.


Source: Quadrofoil Q2 Electric/quadrofoil.com


Could you ever imagine fishing nets being transformed into a luxury statement? Automobile manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover, and BMW are using a resource-conserving materials such as Econyl (this is just one example) as floor coverings and fabrics to fulfill their sustainable targets. For the uninitiated, Econyl is manufactured by recovering nylon waste destined for the landfill, for example, old fish nets and fabric remnants from mills and carpets. These are collected and transformed into a new thread having the same properties as nylon made from new raw materials.

JLR - ECONYL_Corporate (1)

Source: The Econyl Process,Nizam Shaikh/shifting-gears.com

The recycling process used to produce the thread saves CO₂ in comparison with new production. With this, the brands are not only encouraging the use of recyclable materials but are also making a luxury statement for others to follow.

Recycled Plastic

Let’s not discard plastic in our sustainable movement. There is a growing variety of more sustainable plastics. Sustainable feedstocks such as plant fibers, wood, and starches are increasingly being used in plastics; these alternative feedstocks are readily available and affordable and, with responsibility, can be accessed indefinitely. These sources can be used to replace petroleum-based feedstocks. Brands such as Ford, Audi, and GM are creating body components from recycled PET bottles to educate how the ‘cheap disposable material’ can be made into something opulent.


The fact that there is now a high-quality vegan surface material with equivalent properties to the real leather previously used in the production of steering wheels represents another major step towards CO₂ reduction. Replacing raw materials of animal origin makes a significant contribution to increasing sustainability in vehicle production.

Source: LENZING has developed automotive interiors solutions from botanic origins/automotiveworld.com

The BMW Group has for a long time been offering various fabric alternatives to leather. It plans to launch its first vehicles featuring completely vegan interiors in 2023 through the development of innovative materials with leather-like properties. It will also be possible to use these materials for steering wheel surfaces, which must fulfill demanding criteria when it comes to feel, premium appearance, and wear resistance. A few alternatives include MirumTM, which is 100 percent bio-based and petroleum-free, that has the potential to mimic all the properties of traditional leather, as well as a new material, DeserttexTM, which is made of pulverised cactus fibres with a bio-based polyurethane matrix.


Aluminium, also known as the green metal, is often missed in sustainability conversations when it comes to the mobility sector. It has been used in vehicle frames and bodies, electrical wiring, wheels, lamps, paint, transmission, air conditioner condensers and pipes, and engine parts for nearly a century. This metal is used in the uber-BMW Z7, Z8, X5, and X6, as well as the Jaguar F-Type, and Jaguar XJ. The Aluminium Association’s report found that replacing a fleet of steel vehicles with aluminium vehicles can save 108 million barrels of crude oil and avoid 44 million tons of CO₂ emissions. Lightweight, strong, durable, corrosion resistant, and infinitely recyclable, aluminium builds a more sustainable structure. And with a 70+ year life span for some building products, it’s a material that will serve generations to come.


This is the age of EVs. The electrification of mobility is taking place faster than imagined in the wake of inflation and emissions. Electric vehicles are not just good for the environment, but also for our pockets. Despite the higher sticker price, there is a long-term benefit to our money. As we continue to deal with both inflation and emissions, EVs run on batteries that are beneficial for the planet and us because they have no tailpipe, thus producing no emissions. Emissions from cars and trucks are not only bad for our planet, but they’re also bad for our health. Air pollutants from gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles cause asthma, bronchitis, cancer, and premature death. 

Source: The positive impact of electric cars is increasing,Jack Stewart/wired.com

The emergence of lithium-ion technology has fuelled the growth rate of batteries over the last two decades. Li-ion batteries have been the primary solution for automakers to power plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). High-energy density, charge retention capacity, and low maintenance are some of the benefits that have accelerated the growth of Li-ion as a battery technology. Today, some of the world’s best-selling cars, such as Tesla Model S and X, Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron, etc., are battery-operated.

Changing Gears

The role of the mobility sector in ‘Planet Over Profits’ is moving ahead. It is our mission to help the transition towards sustainable transport systems with innovative and environmentally friendly solutions. Just making EVs will not suffice in the long run. Brands will have to formulate and adopt innovative ‘fabrics’ of eco-friendly nature to define their sustainability agenda and fulfil their pledge to zero-emissions soon. A push to swap out unsustainable materials leaves eco-friendly suppliers in a dominant position. The truth is that we still have a long way to go in order to achieve a sustainable transportation model that connects people without harming the environment. But the race to achieve this goal has already begun. Are you on board?

Source: Luxury EV cars,André Gonçalves/youmatter.world