No doubt, the cars of tomorrow—from subcompacts to supercars—will be powered by electricity. This movement from the use of fossil fuels to alternative yet sustainable energies has been fueled by the urgent need for the transport sector to minimize its greenhouse gas emissions, the main driver for global climate change.
But you may not realize that there is a subcurrent trend to electrification, and that’s the changing paradigm of what is considered luxury in today’s vehicles. More and more luxury car buyers are opting for sustainable, cruelty-free materials and designs. The car doesn’t have to just look posh, it must also be compassionate, meaning no animals were abused, harmed nor used in the making of the vehicle’s interiors.
In a big way, electrification and the non-use of animal products in cars go hand-in-hand towards a more thorough approach to environmentalism. In 2012, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declared that annually, the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals—which require massive amounts of feed, pastureland, water, and fossil fuels, and that, in turn, emit greenhouse gas emissions that further fuel climate change. In fact, there is no such thing as “eco-friendly” genuine leather, as the processes involved in turning animal skin into leather also requires large amounts of energy and dangerous chemicals.
And there is the unavoidable aspect of cruelty involved in using genuine animal products. To make leather, cows and bulls face unbearable torture—face-branding with hot irons, electrocution, non-stop beatings, and suffocation—before they are dealt that one final blow.
Electrification and the non-use of animal leather have been adopted by a number of luxury car brands, no doubt encouraged by a growing demand from customers who have had a deeper and wider understanding of the world around them, and of their place among all creatures.
In her article “The new status symbol for car interiors” which appeared in the Australian Financial Review in April 2019, Hannah Elliott wrote about sustainable vegan automobiles. In it, she quoted Filip Brabec, Audi’s vice president for product management: “This is part of a bigger global trend that we see continuing to grow. It has to do with consumers understanding more and more the implications of how we inhabit the environment, and how and what we eat.”
The AFR article described that “Audi has developed sustainable and even carbon-neutral materials for its electric vehicles. The seats of the Q4 e-tron SUV are made from recycled plastic, and the e-tron GT offers an interior option of synthetic leather and recycled microfibers, including a deep-pile Econyl yarn floor carpet made from used fishing nets. The entire car is vegan.”
ABC News Network’s Morgan Korn reported last April 6 that consumers’ next car purchases may come with this disclaimer: No cows were used in the manufacturing of this vehicle. He quoted Marc Lichte, head of design at Audi. “Vegan leather,” as the German luxury automaker calls it, is a big selling point for customers. Two new Audi concepts—the e-tron GT and e-tron Q4—would be “animal free”. Synthetic leather will replace traditional animal leather and the cushions, armrests, headliner, window trims and center console will be produced with recycled materials, Audi says.
The Philippine market, still just getting used to seeing the beginnings of vehicle electrification, will soon be host to this new breed of super cars.
In a message to this writer via PGA Cars Inc’s corporate communications head Brian Afuang, PGA Cars, the exclusive distributor of Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, and Bentley in the Philippines, declared: “As PGA Cars pioneers electromobility in the Philippines with the introduction of the Porsche Taycan—this fully electric sports car is Porsche Philippines’ ‘push’ model for this year intended to be sold in notable volume—as well as the scheduled arrival later this year of the all-electric Audi e-tron SUV, we would also like to highlight not just both models’ electric power plants, but also their availability to be ordered with interiors which are free from leather and which use other recycled materials.”
According to the Livekindly vegan website, Porsche’s new leather-free electric car sees the company stepping up to compete with Tesla, which has been working to bring vegan options to car-buyers for years. Porsche’s new Taycan electric car will have a vegan leather interior option. The leather-free seating generates far fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The cruelty-free leather generates 80 percent less CO2 to produce than its animal-based counterpart, according to Porsche.
In September 2019, Reuters reported that Porsche was making a leather-free version of its new Taycan electric sports car in the latest attempt by a German automaker to play up green credentials as environmental activists lobbied for a boycott of the industry. Porsche, part of the Volkswagen Group, had earlier announced it would invest 6 billion euros through 2022 to develop electric vehicles, as it presented its first zero-emissions sports car. “With the Taycan, Porsche offers an entirely leather-free interior for the first time. Interiors made from innovative recycled materials underscore the sustainable concept of the electric sports car,” Porsche said.
The German marque is entering a new era with the new Taycan, and the brand’s first all-electric sports car is setting standards in interior design.
The Taycan’s color and material design allows for individualized equipment, from traditional to sustainable and modern. There is also the option of classic leather as well as the sustainably tanned Club Leather “OLEA”, which uses olive leaves in the tanning process. The natural quality of the leather is accentuated by means of a special cloud print. A new feature is the fully leather-free interior with state-of-the-art surface textures. “Race-Tex” material is used, a high-quality microfiber material partially consisting of recycled polyester fibers. Its production involves 80 percent less CO2 than traditional materials. The floor covering uses the recycled fiber Econyl, which is made from, among other things, recycled fishing nets.
The Taycan is available with a wide range of interior and exterior configurations, in both traditional and modern styles. Interior accents and trims underline the attention to detail, while meeting the highest quality standards typical of Porsche in terms of material characteristics and workmanship. Interior colors Black-Lime Beige, Blackberry, Atacama Beige and Meranti Brown are exclusively available for the Taycan. The optional interior accent package also gives customers a choice of special contrasting color schemes in black matt, dark silver or neodyme, an elegant champagne tone. The doors and center consoles can be wood trim, matt carbon, embossed aluminum or fabric.
Audi: Sustainability as new premium
According to Audi, sustainability has become the new premium. Sportiness and sustainability do not necessarily have to contradict one another; in combination, they characterize the understanding of luxury in the course of electric mobility. The e-tron GT2 proves this with its leather-free design package.
The sport seats plus with 14-way adjustment are upholstered either with a combination of artificial leather and the Kaskade material or with a mixture of artificial leather and the microfiber material Dinamica. Recycled materials are used in both cases, such as polyester fibers that were made from old plastic bottles, or textiles, or residual fibers from selvages. There are 119 recycled plastic bottles in each Kaskade upholstery set. The Dinamica material is similar to Alcantara, while the Kaskade material, whose seam design is based on the look of the Singleframe, is reminiscent of natural fibers such as wool.
The upholstery of the sport seats pro is made of a combination of two types of leather. The RS design package comprises microfiber material on the hood of the instrument panel carrier, the steering wheel, and the center console trim, with red or gray stitching adding highlights. The floor carpet and floor mats are made from Econyl in both models. This material consists of 100-percent recycled nylon fibers from production waste, fabric and carpet remnants, or old fishing nets.