The BMW Group recently announced that fully vegan interiors will be available for both BMW and MINI models for the first time from 2023, thus serving the demand for vegan and leather-free interiors. This demand will likely increase further in the near future, especially in the US, China and Europe.
The BMW Group’s central goal is the reduction of CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle of a vehicle. Their final goal, climate neutrality, is achievable by 2050 at the latest.
Material selection has a key role to play in achieving this goal. Replacing raw materials of animal origin makes a significant contribution to increasing sustainability in vehicle production.
Vegan-finished steering wheel
Introducing a new surface material for steering wheels will see the proportion of vehicle components that contain traces of raw materials of animal origin fall to less than 1% in the respective BMW and MINI vehicles. In future, these materials will only feature in areas that are not visible to the customer, for example, in various waxy substances such as gelatine used in protective coatings, the lanolin in paints, tallow as an additive in elastomers and beeswax as a flux for paints.
BMW and Mini – a Sustainable future with Vegan Interiors
The BMW Group has long been offering various fabric alternatives to leather. Now, for the first time, it is possible to offer a suitable substitute for leather for the most critical interface between driver and vehicle. The steering wheel surfaces must fulfil demanding criteria regarding appearance, wear resistance and durability. “With a steering wheel made from a high-quality vegan surface material, we are fulfilling the wishes of our customers who do not want to make any compromises in terms of look, feel and functionality. The innovative material withstands wear and tear caused by abrasion, perspiration and moisture and has all the desirable properties of leather,” says Uwe Köhler, Head of Development Body, Exterior Trim, Interior at the BMW Group. The only distinguishing feature of the new material will be a new grain effect on the steering wheel rim.
Leather-free surfaces reduce CO2 emissions by 85%
The fact that there is now a high-quality vegan surface material with equivalent properties to the real leather previously used in the production of steering wheels represents another major step towards CO2 reduction. The new steering wheel surface material reduces CO2 emissions along the value chain by around 85% compared to leather. Up to now, most of the emissions produced, around 80%, were in the form of methane gas from cattle rearing. The highly energy- and water-intensive processing of the cowhide accounts for the remaining 20%.
Climate neutrality and a circular economy are the top priorities
To achieve the goal of climate neutrality, the BMW Group is relying on the use of green electricity in production and in the supply chain, a consistently increased proportion of secondary materials and natural raw materials, highly efficient electric motors and combustion engines and a high recycling rate in line with the principles of a circular economy.
It’s all in the detail: The floor mats for various models are made from mono-material, thus avoiding material mixes that are difficult to recycle. As a result, the BMW Group saves around 23,000 tons of CO2 and an additional 1,600 tons of waste every year since the recycled floor mats and waste material are also reused within the production process.
Research and development in the field of secondary raw materials and sustainable materials are a top priority. Future vehicle generations will offer other attractive alternatives to leather. The BMW Group is working with start-up companies to develop innovative bio-based materials. Compared to the synthetic leathers previously used, these result in around 45% lower CO2 emissions. Mirum™, a 100% bio-based and petroleum-free material, has the potential to mimic all the properties of traditional leather. Another new material, Deserttex™, is made from pulverised cactus fibres with a bio-based polyurethane matrix. With these materials, replacing raw materials of animal origin can result in a significant reduction in CO2.
For more information, visit www.bmwgroup.com