How to Achieve Automotive Sustainability Inside and out – A Special Report on ‘Green’ car Interiors (2024)

The automotive industry has begun to prioritise zero emission vehicles and carbon neutral manufacturing. Sustainable car interiors were bound to follow, and OEMs are making great strides. In the future, coffee, eggs, walnuts, rice and lentils could be just as likely found in your car’s interior as your shopping basket, according to UK design and engineering consultancyCALLUM.

Breanna Sherman has our special report on green car interiors.

“The entire supply chain is considering the environment at all steps of a vehicle’s lifecycle and putting an emphasis on the circular economy. Both customer pull and investor push are driving this,” Charlotte Jones, Head of Materials and Sustainability at CALLUM, tells Auto Futures.

Sustainability through innovation

Ian Callum's automotive work includes the Aston Martin Vanquish, Vantage and DB9, Jaguar F-Type, F-PACE, XJ and the I-PACE, amongst others. He has worked for Ford, Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover.

CALLUM was conceived because we wanted the freedom to design and manufacture bespoke products that excite us; to create without restraint. We wanted the opportunity to explore design and engineering ideas, to try new things we’d not had the chance to previously,” saysCallum, Co-Founder and Design Director.

By working with green-tech company Ottan, CALLUM hopes to demonstrate what is possible in the automotive world.

Ottan carries out materials research, transforming different kinds of waste into materials that work in various industries and environments. They were able to help CALLUM navigate the challenges of choosing suitable materials for car interiors.

Coffee pulp was amongst them, offering a flame-resistant material that could be an alternative for traditional glossy plastics and decorative trim. It offers a finish very similar to a wood veneer,” explains Jones.

There are some particularly challenging elements that must be addressed in the design of a car interior, namely temperature and wear resistance. Ottan has found that. “eggshells mixed with resin can create such a material to meet that challenge, while also providing elegant and attractive surfaces that can be matte or glossy,” adds Jones.

The team used a retromod Porsche 911 interior as the basis for their research.

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Giving Food Waste a Second Life

When referring to car interiors, this is more than just the seating. As Charlotte Jones explains, this also refers to the “less glamorous applications… the structures and frames for the interior such as centre console or dashboard. It all counts.”

Eggshells, walnut shells, and out of date lentils and rice. Rather than sending these to a landfill, CALLUM is incorporating these items into their cars’ interiors.

Thousands of tonnes of food are wasted in the UK every day, so making use of products such as out of date lentils and rice would give them a second life. These can be processed into a smooth translucent material that could be used for illuminated switches or perhaps lamp covers, for example,” explains Jones.

In addition to food waste, CALLUM is looking at clothing, furniture, and plastic waste to see what can be applied in a car environment.

As part of their effort to make these projects more appealing to buyers, CALLUM found certain materials that can provide vivid colours.

According to a recent CALLUM press release, purple carrot pulp offers a mulberry-like colour for trim parts, and tree leaves can “be recycled into a dark, smooth surface offering an alternative natural finish to wood veneers for the centre console or dashboard.”

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Vegan Interiors

Currently, CALLUM’s projects are niche or low in volume. However, the company is confident that it will slowly be able to increase production.

“As these materials first become available, it’s likely that they will incur a higher cost than traditional materials, but over time and as the material usage scales, this gap will reduce. At present… the higher costs of innovative materials are perhaps a little easier to cover, but we are also looking at how they could work at higher volumes too,” says Jones.

California-based Fisker Inc. is also ensuring its car interiors are eco-friendly.

The Fisker Ocean, which the company claims is the ‘world’s most sustainable vehicle’, has a vegan interior. Its cabin features upholstery, carpets and interior details made from recycled plastic bottles, rubber waste, worn-out t-shirts and abandoned fishing nets pulled from the ocean.

In a press release from November, 2022, Fisker Chairman and CEO, Henrik Fisker. says: “We know that sustainability is an important factor for our customers, and we currently have more than 62,000 reservations for the Fisker Ocean.”

The company recently won the 'Green SUV of The Year 2023' award from the Green Car Journal.

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Making EVs More Accessible

Higher volumes of production of CALLUM’s concept interior could be possible by 2030 or earlier. Until then, the company will continue to try out new materials that, “meet automotive rigour and testing requirements,” says Jones.

CALLUM already has an EV scooter that has a hemp/flax composite option. The Barq EV’s material has proved to be attractive to customers, with a surprisingly high number of orders specifying the flax and hemp composite option for the scooter’s bodywork.

We’ve just heard of a flax variant where you can tint the colour of the fibres, introducing new hues including a grey. This opens up more opportunities to meet the demands of clients who want to embrace the material but are put off by the brown colour so prevalent today,” adds Jones.

The company’s first focus for 2023 is to create a more accessible EV.

“We’re looking forward to sharing more in 2023, with our first focus being a project with up-and-coming design and engineering talent and Motability Operations to develop a prototype Electric Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (eWAV) that will help make EVs more accessible. Watch this space!” concludes Callum.

How to Achieve Automotive Sustainability Inside and out – A Special Report on ‘Green’ car Interiors (2024)


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