Climate change is a hot topic in the car industry and manufacturers are racing to bring electric cars and plug-in hybrids to market to reduce tailpipe emissions.
But it’s not just the powertrain that’s been the focus. Many manufacturers have been working to make the whole car building process more eco-friendly, whether it’s the materials used inside or the production process itself.
Here, we take a look at some of the ways cars are getting greener.
The Mini Strip is a one-off concept car built in collaboration with fashion designer Paul Smith. Based on the firm’s Electric Hatch, it prioritises sustainability above all else.
Features include a body that has not been painted, except for a film to protect it from corrosion, recycled perspex for the panoramic roof, all but the necessary interior trim removed, and cork used throughout.
Though the Mini Strip will remain as a concept, the British firm says it can be used as a ‘catalyst for more sustainable use of resources in automotive design’.
Although electric vehicles are considered the future, there are some alternatives being worked on. One example is hydrogen cars, but a less talked about alternative is synthetic fuel.
Also known as eFuels, they are essentially no different from the petrol and diesel that comes from crude oil, but they are instead produced from CO2 and hydrogen using renewable energy.
Porsche and Siemens are two big companies working together on this technology. Although they admit that currently it is more efficient to use that renewable energy to charge an electric vehicle, eFuels are a sustainable way to fuel the millions of petrol and diesel vehicles currently on the world’s roads.
Volvo’s wool interiors
Volvo has been one of the manufacturers most committed to electrifying its line-up, but it’s also focused on sustainability elsewhere. We’ve become used to seeing synthetic or ‘vegan’ leather alternatives from a variety of manufacturers, but Volvo offers a unique wool upholstery.
It’s a blend that’s 30 per cent wool, 70 per cent recycled polyester that’s available as a no cost extra on some of the firm’s vehicles.
Volvo isn’t the only manufacturer experimenting with interesting eco materials. Last year, Fiat became the first manufacturer to use Seaqual yarn for its seat upholstery, with the Cupra Born’s bucket seats also using the material.
Seaqual is an initiative based in Italy that focuses on fighting plastic pollution in the ocean. Its ‘Yarn’ product is made from 100 per cent recycled materials, with about 10 per cent coming from upcycled marine litter.
Pretty much every major car manufacturer has announced plans to electrify its range and set targets for carbon neutral production at its factories. This is being achieved in various ways, such as powering factories with renewable energy.
Toyota builds more cars than anyone else globally, so improvements can have a major impact at its factories. Measures include using water-based paints on cars, removing pollutants before they are released through smokestacks, cleaning wastewater on-site before it is released, and growing forests inside its factory sites.
Last year, the Japanese company announced plans to build a ‘prototype city of the future’ at the base of Mt. Fuji. It will be fully connected and powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Bentley of the future
Bentley is a luxury car firm, and it has made it its mission to make sure the cars it builds in the future are more sustainable. In 2019 it revealed the EXP 100 GT concept car, an autonomous electric vehicle.
But everything about its construction had sustainability in mind. For example, some of the furnishings used a dying process that strives to achieve zero discharge of chemicals into the environment, while others come from a material called Vegea, which uses the bi-products of wine-making. It also uses wood from naturally felled trees.