BMW and Mini say goodbye to leather: from 2023, interiors will be vegan
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BMW and Mini say goodbye to leather: from 2023, interiors will be vegan

Sustainability also involves replacing materials of animal origin

BMW and Mini say goodbye to leather: from 2023, interiors will be vegan
By Editorial Staff -

From 2023, the percentage of the interiors of BMW and Mini motorcars based on materials of animal origin will drop below one percent. This almost total goodbye to leather, its texture, and its smell is hardly a bad thing. It’s the latest step in the group’s ongoing efforts to reduce its environmental impact, which has already seen reduced emissions throughout the production chain, the release of electric and hybrid cars, and the use of the first plant-sourced parts. A big step forward was the development of a material suitable for steering wheels that meets the group’s standards in terms of touch and resistance to wear.

The background to the development of these innovative leather-like vegan materials is a part of BMW’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions throughout the lifecycle of each vehicle, which, in turn, is part of the group’s plan to achieve neutral emissions. At the latest, this needs to happen by 2050, which explains why the work to develop more sustainable products for the interiors of BMWs and Minis is so important. For some time, the group has offered a range of fabrics, but the new models in 2023 will see a mini revolution in that basic interface between driver and car, that is, the steering wheel.

“With a steering wheel made from a high-quality vegan surface material, we’re fulfilling the wishes of our customers who don’t want to make any compromises in terms of look, feel, and functionality - says Uwe Köhler, head of development for body, exterior trim, and interior at the BMW Group -. This innovative material withstands wear and tear caused by abrasion, perspiration, and moisture, and has all the desirable properties of leather.”

The group assures its customers that the only difference is a different grain effect on the steering wheel rim. The result will be that the percentage of vehicle components containing traces of materials of animal origin will fall below one percent. And these will mainly concern parts of the car that aren’t normally visible, such as various waxy substances such as the gelatin used in protective coatings, lanolin in paints, tallow as an additive in elastomers, and beeswax as a flux for paints.

>>> Discover the sustainable design of a 3D-printed seat.


Leather-free surfaces reduce CO2 emissions by 85%

BMW e Mini con interni vegani, BMW Group Courtesy of BMW Group

So, how much impact will making steering wheels from vegan materials have on CO2 emissions? Current estimates are around 85%. The manufacturing of a leather steering wheel is responsible for methane gas emissions from farms (about 80% of the total), and the energy- and water-intensive processing of cowhide (the remaining 20%).

In its choice of materials for car interiors, the BMW Group says that it’s working to promote circular economies and reuse. Another example is floor mats made of a single material that is easy to recycle.

A vital part of this transition to bio-based materials is collaboration and an exchange of knowhow with various start-ups. The products developed include the fully plant-based and petroleum-free Mirum®, and Deserttex®, a bio-based polyurethane matrix produced from pulverized cactus fibers.

>>> Read about the use of materials in the fashion industry.


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