Within the world of luxury cars, leather upholstery still signifies the ultimate decadence. But following the footprint of economical cars like the Honda Civic and the Nissan Sentra, top luxury automakers are also taking responsible measures by optioning leather upholstery, or in some cases, completely altering the interiors with animal-free alternatives.
The automaker companies have been offering synthetic leather for years as an inexpensive substitute to the real material but now they’ve gone one step further, offering it as the sustainable choice. In 2017, prodded by PETA (People for Ethnic Treatments of Animals), Tesla ditched the leather upholstery in their cars, with other EV makers following suit. While the GMC Hummer EV SUV and pickup are coming with synthetic skin interiors, the new Rivian R1T has launched the model with exclusive ‘vegan leather’ upholstery. The C40 Recharge of Volvo is already leather-free, and according to the company, by 2030, the entire electric line-up of Volvo will be leather-less as well.
So, what is this synthetic leather? Most vegan or animal-free automotive textiles are made of plastics. Traditionally, vinyl or polyvinyl chloride, which is made from petroleum oil, has been the popular alternative for leather. The latest versions of faux leathers claim a sort of eco-friendly prospect, by being made from different sorts of natural materials, like pineapple plant leaves, apple peels, mushroom roots, etc. Still, these alternative leathers are yet to appear in production car interiors.
The Mazda Version
According to Mazda, their MX-30 EV features Premium Vintage Leatherette, made with minimal organic solvents. Lexus claims in their reports that the latest NuLuxe model uses no animal-sourced compounds in its interiors, producing 65% fewer carbon emissions than real leather. Recently, the senior design manager for the material and color of Volvo, Rekha Meena, also stated that the brand’s signature ‘Microtech’ vinyl is crafted without any harmful plasticizer.