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Volvo Cars is going leather-free with its future EVs

In a bid to be carbon neutral by 2040, Volvo’s first step towards sustainability involves ditching leather in its EVs and opting for more sustainable, yet premium alternatives.

December 03, 2021 / 02:36 PM IST

Volvo Cars is one of the very few automotive brands that have delved into the minutiae of carbon neutrality. The brand’s mission statement acknowledges that it’s not just the cars that have to be zero emission, but that the entire manufacturing process needs a thorough overhaul. One of the many ways the brand is embracing sustainability is by going leather-free with all its EV offerings, starting with the soon-to-be-launched C40 Recharge.

In one of the many displays of characteristic transparency, Polestar, Volvo’s premium performance subsidiary, recently shared all the data on its EV carbon impact on the planet. The reports contained a “Life Cycle Assessment” of Polestar EVs, gauging their carbon impact across their usage span. Naturally one of the ways an EV continues to have a significant carbon impact is through the use of leather which has considerable and far-reaching consequences for the environment.

Extensive research has confirmed that the leather industry is responsible for widespread deforestation, among other forms of assault to ecology. In short, continuous leather usage remains a major red flag in any supposedly sustainability-driven brand’s manifesto. Along with this it’s also responsible for unethical animal factory farms, which have ravaging effects on the environment. Even brands that sell or use supposedly “eco-friendly” leather are obscuring the unnatural amounts of toxic chemicals and energy that’s used-up in the manufacturing process, with carefully worded marketing briefs.

Volvo has decided to remove leather from the equation altogether, when it comes to its EVs. As an alternative to leather, Volvo Cars is going to use high-quality sustainable materials made from bio-based, recycled sources. This includes recycled PET bottles, corks from the wine industry along with other materials which create a material that looks just as premium and is more breathable than leather. In addition to this, Volvo will also be considering wool-blend options whose sourcing can be traced and will always be in compliance with animal welfare standards. Volvo has claimed that the process of phasing out leather will begin with cars like the C40 Recharge and continue to increase in scope all the way till 2030, by which point Volvo would have phased out all ICE vehicles, and therefore any trace of leather, from its product portfolio.

While several brands have made the option of leather-free upholstery available to customers, Volvo’s stance is a firm one: no leather, no vegan leather and certainly no optional leather. In doing so, it has become the only legacy automaker to put the environment’s needs before the preferences of the customers, many of whom continue to believe that leather is the hallmark of true luxury. In reality, leather is rather unsuitable for everyday usage, particularly in tropical climates, where it has to be perforated and fitted with a cooling mechanism to be really comfortable. During the coachbuilt-era of automobiles, several high-end coaches were outfitted with softer, breathable fabrics which were much less abrasive than leather; the latter being reserved for the coach or horse-driven hansom driver, whose seat was often exposed to the elements.

However, with this incremental shift towards sustainable materials, Volvo believes that customer preferences will also come to change drastically. Much like they have in the field of fashion, where fur and leather – once considered to be the chief indicators of wealth and taste are now boycotted by some of the most prestigious fashion-houses. Particularly those discerning and environmentally conscious buyers who have reached the brand’s doorstep due to its transparency and fastidious approach to climate preservation. In addition to this, any livestock-derived products used for the manufacturing of rubber, lubricants, adhesives etc will also be used to a minimal extent.

Moneycontrol journalists are not involved in the creation of the article.
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first published: Dec 3, 2021 02:34 pm