Our former editor-in-chief always knew: “I don't like leather seats in the car at all.

Cold in winter and hot in summer. ”Back then, more than 30 years ago, we were still smiling.

Leather was considered luxurious and stylish, it looked good and wasn't as stuffy as fabric seats.

Very few thought about animal welfare and sustainability.

Today it looks different.

We are not only on the way to electromobility, we will probably also gradually say goodbye to leather seats and other animal products such as wool in the interiors of cars.

The keyword is: vegan interiors.

Many automakers are on their way there - some faster, some slower.

Boris Schmidt

Editor in the “Technology and Engine” section.

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More and more people are vegetarian or vegan, in Germany there are around nine million. Many of them are so consistent that they don't want to come into contact with animal products in the car either. This is often easy because cheaper car models only work with plastics anyway, for example at Dacia. Even the best-selling car in Germany, the VW Golf, is vegan in its basic version, just like all Ford models in the basic equipment. If you want to know more: The animal welfare organization Peta has a fairly up-to-date list on its website, although not all manufacturers have responded to Peta's request. The car rental company Sixt, for example, also provides information about which of its cars are vegan.

It becomes more difficult when it comes to higher price ranges. Leather is part of it there, even if it is only used to cover the steering wheel. But that too is beginning to change. Volvo, often a pioneer in many areas (for a year now all models have been factory limited to 180 kilometers per hour), will only offer the all-electric new C40 Recharge "100 percent leather-free". The same applies to the sister model, the also electric XC40 Recharge.

“We want to gradually reduce the use of products of animal origin in our vehicles,” says Lisa Reeves, designer at Volvo. “We're doing this because we see that consumers are increasingly wanting leather-free cars.” He continued: “Over time, these products will be completely eliminated from vehicles. Our goal is to replace them with other sustainable vinyls and textiles. ”So there is no leather left in the C40, not even on the steering wheel or on the automatic selector lever. Instead, new materials such as microtech textile upholstery for the seats and more sustainable alternatives made from recycled plastic bottles are used.

Because animal welfare is one major goal, the sustainable use of resources is the other.

For one square meter of leather, 500 liters of water are used for tanning alone, not to mention the needs of the cattle during their lifetime.

The textiles used now are not only more sustainable, they even save two to four kilograms compared to leather, says Reeves.

Recycled PET bottles are used for the carpets in the C40, around 70 are processed per vehicle.

Recycled material for the interior design made of PET bottles or fishing nets is not new in the auto industry, it is already available - also for the seats - at Land Rover or at Audi in the electric E-Tron GT.

And of course vegan is not good per se either - it always depends on the ecological balance.

Another synthetic leather is called Acella

A popular substitute for leather is Alcantara, a microfiber non-woven fabric developed in Japan in the 1970s that is based on polyester and polyurethane and feels almost like suede. Alcantara is even more breathable, slip-resistant, largely maintenance-free and weighs less in comparison. Porsche likes to use it when equipping its GTS models. Another synthetic leather that is very similar is called Acella.

The new Volvo C40 should not only convince with a vegan interior. Lisa Reeves and her team have also come up with a “world first”: translucent, three-dimensional inlays that are supposed to create a calming ambience with their background lighting. This is available at no extra charge, whereby 1570 or 1780 euros have to be paid extra for the finer vegan upholstery. In any case, the 62,050 euro Volvo, which is coming on the market these days, is not a special offer. However, the coupe SUV also has two engines and more than 600 horsepower. But these are other talents.

The Audi Skysphere Concept, which recently debuted in California, would not have to be paid for at all. The VW subsidiary wants to show what it plans to do in the future. Among other things, everything will be electric and autonomous. When the steering wheel and pedals are no longer needed, the driver can make them disappear. But the same applies here: the interior is vegan. The two seats of the futuristic five-meter roadster are covered with sustainably produced microfiber fabric. Ecologically certified eucalyptus wood and synthetically produced “leather surrogate” are further interior materials.

Leather lovers will therefore look into the tube in the long term. The substitute materials are not inferior to leather in terms of feel and appearance. Even with the keepers of the grail of the English-influenced fine establishment, at Rolls-Royce, the trend has long since arrived. If the customer so wishes, says a Rolls-Royce spokeswoman, he can of course get a vegan interior.