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Eco-friendly innovations as cars race to go green

A green car for the future: the Bentley EXP 100 GT.
A green car for the future: the Bentley EXP 100 GT.

Climate change is a hot topic in the car industry and manufacturers are racing to bring electric cars and plug-in hybrids to market to reduce tailpipe emissions.

But it’s not just the powertrain that’s been the focus. Many manufacturers have been working to make the whole car building process more eco-friendly, whether it’s the materials used inside or the production process itself.

We take a look at some of the ways cars are getting greener.

Mini Strip

The Mini Strip

The Mini Strip is a one-off concept car built in collaboration with fashion designer Paul Smith. Based on the firm’s Electric Hatch, it prioritises sustainability above all else.

Features include a body that has not been painted, except for a film to protect it from corrosion, recycled Perspex for the panoramic roof, all but the necessary interior trim removed, and cork used throughout.

The Mini Strip interior.

Though the Mini Strip will remain as a concept, the British firm says it can be used as a “catalyst for more sustainable use of resources in automotive design”.

Synthetic fuel

A pilot project in Chile, run by Porsche, Siemens and others, is converting wind energy to fuel.

Although electric vehicles are considered the future, there are some alternatives being developed. One example is hydrogen cars, but a less talked about alternative is synthetic fuel.

Also known as eFuels, they are essentially no different from the petrol and diesel that comes from crude oil, but they are instead produced from CO2 and hydrogen using renewable energy.

Porsche and Siemens are two big companies working together on this technology. Although they admit that currently it is more efficient to use renewable energy to charge an electric vehicle, eFuels are a sustainable way to fuel the millions of petrol and diesel vehicles currently on the world’s roads.

Volvo’s wool interiors

The Volvo V90 offers a wool upholstery option.

Volvo has been one of the manufacturers most committed to electrifying its line-up, but it’s also focused on sustainability elsewhere. We’ve become used to seeing synthetic or vegan leather alternatives from a variety of manufacturers, but Volvo offers a unique wool upholstery.

For interested buyers, the blend of 30% wool and 70% recycled polyester is available as a no-cost extra on some of the firm’s vehicles.

Seaqual Yarn

The CUPRA Born will use Seaqual yarn on its seats.

Volvo isn’t the only manufacturer experimenting with interesting eco materials. Last year, Fiat became the first manufacturer to use Seaqual yarn for its seat upholstery, with the CUPRA Born’s bucket seats also using the material.

Seaqual is an initiative based in Italy that focuses on fighting plastic pollution in the ocean. Its yarn product is made from 100% recycled materials, with about 10% coming from upcycled marine litter.

Eco-friendly production

Toyota’s city of the future.

Pretty much every major car manufacturer has announced plans to electrify its range and set targets for carbon neutral production at its factories. This is being achieved in various ways, such as powering factories with renewable energy.

Toyota builds more cars than anyone else globally, so improvements can have a major impact at its factories. Measures include using water-based paints on cars, removing pollutants before they are released through smokestacks, cleaning wastewater on-site before it is released, and growing forests inside its factory sites.

Last year, the Japanese company announced plans to build a prototype city of the future at the base of Mount Fuji. It will be fully connected and powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Bentley of the future

The Macalllan estate’s Bentley Bentayga.

Bentley is a luxury car firm, and it has made it its mission to make sure the cars it builds in the future are more sustainable. In 2019 it revealed the EXP 100 GT concept car, an autonomous electric vehicle.

But everything about its construction had sustainability in mind. For example, some of the furnishings used a dying process that strives to achieve zero discharge of chemicals into the environment, while others come from a material called Vegea, which uses the bi-products of wine-making. It also uses wood from naturally felled trees.

Most recently, Bentley entered into partnership with Macallan whisky, with the estate taking delivery of two Bentley hybrid vehicles – the new bespoke Bentayga Hybrid and the Flying Spur Hybrid, bot of which are charged using 100 per cent Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO), sourced entirely from Wardlaw Wood Wind Farm.

These clever innovations signal a step change in the car industry’s outlook

The commitment from Bentley to provide hybrids on the Estate reflects the ethos of the partnership, with commitment to sustainable transformation. Nearly 10 years ago, Bentley began building what would become the UK’s largest rooftop array of solar panels, with more panels also mounted on the factory’s car port. Now up to 40% of the factory’s electricity needs can be met with solar power alone. Any additional gas electricity used is certified green.

Overall, these clever innovations signal a step change in the car industry’s outlook, showing a permanent commitment to keep motoring and it’s production processes relevant – and sustainable – well into the future.

Hybrid heaven as Bentley and Macallan join brand forces