Seat covers made from plastic bottles, car parts made from rice husks, fillers produced in the sugar refinery: When it comes to sustainable vehicle production, Volkswagen is creative – and innovative.
Unfortunately, it is a standard day for the SEAQUAL INITIATIVE volunteers: Once again they have collected dozens of sacks of plastic waste from the Mediterranean coastline. A fantastic campaign organised by the men and women in white T-shirts emblazoned with the logo “Together for a clean ocean”. And the initiative doesn’t stop at simply collecting rubbish: The recycled plastic is the basis for the production of SEAQUAL YARN, a material that is used to make the sports seats for the new CUPRA Born, for example.
Recycling and upcycling are becoming increasingly important
This is just one of many examples from the Volkswagen Group of how cars are becoming more and more sustainable – not only when it comes to the motor. Recycling (processing and reusing raw materials) and upcycling (transforming seemingly useless waste products into materials that are as good as new) are becoming increasingly important for all of the Group’s brands.
Antonino Labate is proud of the collaboration with the SEAQUAL INITIATIVE: “The partnership in designing the seats for the CUPRA Born shows that sustainability, innovation and modern design are a perfect fit,” said the Director of Strategy, Business Development and Operations at CUPRA, the challenger brand of SEAT S.A.
SEAQUAL YARN is a material made from recycled polymer fibres, which are obtained from the plastic waste collected. This benefits the environment: The materials for the sports seats are recycled and CUPRA is doing its bit to make beaches and water cleaner at the same time.
Car parts made from rice husks
SEAT has always been very creative when it comes to using sustainable materials. For example, the Group brand has been working on using rice husks for some time now, which are actually a by-product that is burned. “We thought about how we could recycle this 100% plant-based raw material, and developed Oryzite: a material that can be mixed and formed with other thermostable thermoplastic composites,” said Iban Ganduxé, CEO of Oryzite.
SEAT is initially trialling this compound in the production of car parts previously made from plastic, such as parts of the tailgate, the double loading floor and the roof liner. Using rice husks will significantly reduce the percentage of plastics and crude-oil-based raw materials in the vehicles. The components are also lighter, thus reducing weight, which in turn decreases CO2 emissions. This makes the vehicles more environmentally friendly in a number of ways.
Seat covers made from plastic bottles
Using sustainable materials and handling resources responsibly also play an important role at other Group brands. For example, the seat covers in the Audi A3 are mostly made from recycled plastic bottles. Broadly speaking, the process is as follows: The transparent bottles, which are easier to dye, are cleaned by a plastic recycling company and, without the screw caps, are cut up into tiny flakes in a shredder. This produces the granulate, which a yarn producer uses to spin the polyester fibres, which will become the yarn. Up to 89 percent of the various textile designs for the Audi A3 comes from recycled materials: the textile “Torsion” in the Design Selection and the textile “Puls” in the S line.
For a seat trim, 45 plastic bottles with a capacity of 1.5 litres are used for the textile “Torsion”. A further 62 plastic bottles are recycled to make the carpet in the Audi A3. And more and more other interior components are being made from secondary raw materials, such as the insulation and absorbers, the side panel in the boot, the loading floor and the liner mats. The goal is clear: To significantly increase the percentage of recycled materials in the Audi fleet in the coming years. In doing so, the premium brand will continue to provide their customers with the high-quality products they are used to.
The Ingolstadt-based brand also leads the way in other areas: As part of a pilot project for the Audi e-tron GT01, the company is sourcing 20-inch rims from aluminium produced with reduced CO2 emissions, which Alcoa supplies to the RONAL GROUP, who manufacture the wheels. The key feature: During the custom-developed, innovative smelting process, oxygen is released instead of carbon dioxide.
Non-leather fittings, primarily made from recycled materials, are also available for the Audi e-tron GT. The covers for the bucket seats plus come in either a combination of imitation leather with the textile Kaskade, or a mix of imitation leather with the microfibre material Dinamica. Both cover options predominantly consist of materials such as polyester fibres, which are manufactured from recycled plastic bottles, textiles or residual fibres – there are 119 recycled plastic bottles in every Kaskade cover trim. Dinamica also covers the top of the centre console, the door trims and the cover for the dashboard. The carpet and floor mats in the Audi e-tron GT are usually made from Econyl – a material produced entirely from recycled nylon fibres. It is made from production waste, fabric scraps, old carpets and old fishing nets.
Porsche works with flax fibres and olive leaves
The Porsche brand is another pioneer: For more than two years, the company based in Zuffenhausen has been manufacturing both the doors and the rear wing of the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR racing car using a mix of natural fibres that is primarily sourced from renewable raw materials. Now, additional prototype components are currently undergoing testing in racing action. These include the front and rear apron, front spoiler lip, front and rear lids, mudguards and diffusor, including the aerodynamic fins, which are also made from this regenerative material. These sustainable organic fibre composites are made from flax fibres, which are produced in agriculture – without compromising food cultivation.
When it comes to production vehicles, the Porsche Taycan02 is one that stands out in terms of sustainable materials: In the interior, the sustainably tanned club leather “OLEA”, which uses olive leaves as tannins, is available as an alternative to traditional leather.
Volkswagen concept car with wood shavings as a natural colorant
Volkswagen presented a vision of the future in September with the ID. LIFE03. The sustainable nature of this concept car is reflected not only in its all-electric drive, but also in the selection of materials and paintwork in particular: The clear lacquer for the body uses wood shavings as a natural colorant and a bio-based hardening agent. The goal is to be able to do away with paintwork entirely for future cars.
What’s more, the air chamber textile for the roof and the front panel is made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. The raw materials used to make the tyres of the ID. LIFE include organic oil, natural rubber and rice husks. In the interior, wood from sustainable forestry used for the edging of the dashboard and rear seat area is combined with ArtVelours Eco for the seat covers and door trims, and textiles for the headrests and door panel padding. And last but not least, shredded used tyres give the rubber paintwork for the boarding area a very distinctive texture.
ŠKODA works with virgin wool, olive leaves and plastic bottles
Innovative ideas also come to life in the ŠKODA ENYAQ iV: In addition to foot mats and carpet boot mats with fibres made from recycled plastic bottles, and sound insulation made from refurbished materials, the model also offers two seat covers made from environmentally friendly materials. In the Lodge Design Selection, 40 percent of the covers is made from natural virgin wool and the covers have been awarded the Woolmark Wool Blend Performance by the Woolmark Company for products that contain between 30 and 49.9 percent virgin wool.
The polyester for the remaining 60 percent of this cover fabric is sourced from recycled plastic bottles. The ecoSuite Design Selection also offers sustainable seat covers. The cognac-coloured leather used is produced without using chromium-sulphate-based chemicals. Instead – like at Porsche – an extract from the leaves of the olive tree is used for the tanning process.
The Volkswagen Group as a whole is well-positioned when it comes to sustainable materials. The individual brands are systematically researching and developing to make the car even more sustainable.
01 Audi e-tron GT quattro: Combined electric power consumption in kWh/100 km (62.1 mi): 19.6 – 18.8 (NEDC), 21.6 – 19.9 (WLTP); combined CO2 emissions in g/km (g/mi): 0
02 Taycan: Electric power consumption combined in kWh/100 km: 25.4 – 20.4 (WLTP); CO₂ emissions combined (WLTP) g/km: 0
03 This vehicle is a concept car. The vehicle is not yet available for sale.