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September 8, 2022

BMW To Introduce Vegan-Friendly Interiors By 2023

BMW is planning to launch its first vehicles featuring completely vegan interiors by next year. The option, which will be made available in both BMW and MINI models, was made possible through the development of innovative materials with leather-like properties.

The reduction of CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle of a vehicle is the central goal of BMW as a group. Previous, they have said that they want to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. With that, 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. The introduction of 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 one percent in the respective BMW and MINI vehicles. As a result, these materials will now only be found in areas that are not visible to the customer, for example in various waxy substances such as gelatine used in protective coatings, lanolin in paints, tallow as an additive in elastomers, and beeswax as a flux for paints.

Although BMW has searched for non-leather alternatives for a long time, it’s only now that they’ve found a suitable substitute material that offers more or less the same appearance, wear resistance, and durability. According to the automaker, the only discernable difference would be the new grain effect on the steering wheel rim.

The new steering wheel surface material reduces CO2 emissions along the value chain by around 85 percent compared to leather. Up to now, most of the emissions produced, around 80 percent, were in the form of methane gas from cattle rearing. The remaining 20 percent was accounted for by processing of the cowhide, which is highly energy- and water-intensive.

Aside from the steering wheel, BMW is looking at other areas to improve their sustainability. For example, floor mats will now be made of a single material, thus avoiding material mixes that are difficult to recycle. This 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.

A few years down the road, BMW will also work to further the development of bio-based materials. These include the use of Mirum—a 100 percent bio-based and petroleum-based material that mimics the properties of traditional leather as well as Deserttex—a material made from pulverized cactus fibers with a bio-based polyurethane matrix.

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