Volvo Cars announced this past week that it plans to make all of its fully electric models completely leather-free by 2030, as part of “an ethical stand for animal welfare.”
That includes a target to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, and to make 25 percent of the material in Volvo models out of recycled and “bio-based content” by then, on the way to what it’s targeting as a fully circular business—in which materials are continually reused—by 2040. But it notes that just removing leather, in the complex supply chains involved in making cars, doesn't make them necessarily vegan.
The first Volvo model completely devoid of leather will be the C40 Recharge, due for first U.S. deliveries by the end of the year.
2022 Volvo C40 Recharge
Otherwise, on the way to that target, it will be using materials like Nordico, a textile made of recycled plastics, recycled corks, and sustainable forests in Scandinavia. With attention to the supply chain, wool products will still be offered.
Volvo notes that livestock is estimated to be responsible for about 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions related to human activity, with cattle farming the majority of that. Deforestation is an interrelated issue.
In an adjacent report, Volvo notes that in the U.S. almost a third of Gen Z and Millennials say that they would pay more for products that have the least negative impact on the environment.
2022 Volvo C40 interior
“Finding products and materials that support animal welfare will be challenging, but that is no reason to avoid this important issue,” said Stuart Templar. “This is a journey worth taking. Having a truly progressive and sustainable mindset means we need to ask ourselves difficult questions and actively try and find answers.”
These efforts closely parallel those outlined last year by Volvo’s all-electric cousin, Polestar. Although the targets for Volvo are more ambitious as they potentially cover a much higher volume and scale, Polestar aims to reduce plastic content by 80 percent through the use of natural fiber-based materials, including Bcomp, which is made from flax. Polestar then emphasized that it already has a vegan interior in the Polestar 2
2022 Polestar 2 single-motor
BMW recently revealed the i Vision Circular concept, showing how it might make an electric vehicle around the idea of a circular economy, targeting nearly 100 percent recycled materials and 100 recyclability, by 2040—as part of a plan to cut lifecycle CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Audi says that it will use a new generation of sustainable materials in all its vehicles, not just EVs. And GM has said that it aims for 50 percent sustainable-materials content in its vehicles by 2030.
Among EV startups, Fisker is perhaps the one with the tallest claims. It has claimed that the upcoming Ocean EV will be the most sustainable vehicle in the world, with eco-suede, recovered tire rubber, and carpet made of regenerated nylon.