A concept study (called SMS) conducted by design and engineering consultancy CALLUM has stated that coffee, eggs, walnuts, rice and lentils could all be found within a future car’s interior.
Instead of looking at materials which were already being considered for use within automotive interiors, the company’s designers and engineers chose to evaluate new, more sustainable options.
Led by Charlotte Jones, head of materials and sustainability at CALLUM, and Ian Callum, co-founder and design director, the team chose a retromod Porsche 911 interior for the study’s starting point and coffee pulp, eggshells, red lentils, walnuts and rice were all chosen as possible materials for interior use as early as 2030.
With thousands of tons of food being discarded each day in the UK, the study team spoke with Ottan – a green technology company – to decide which materials would be the best at replacing conventional plastics while meeting the design, environmental and engineering requirements of a car. Solutions that met both temperature and wear specifications included eggshells mixed with a resin to form a smooth, opaque material with either a glossy or matt surface. The material could be used for trim surrounds for switches, for example. To increase the recycled content of the sustainable material from 78% to 84%, walnut shells can be added to the eggshell mixture.
If a smooth translucent material is required, the team found that out of date rice or lentils can be used for illuminated areas of the car, including for lamp covers or illuminated switches. If a flame-resistant alternative is required, then coffee pulp can be used to replace conventionally used plastics for decorative trim pieces with a glossy finish.
To show that sustainable materials can be used to produce colored interior parts, the team identified purple carrot pulp could be used to make mulberry-like colored trim components, or alternatively, that tree leaves could be recycled for a dark smooth finish on interior surface as an alternative to traditionally used wood veneers.
As vehicle seats need a good balance between wear resistance, comfort and color fastness, CALLUM chose to use recycled materials which would otherwise be placed into landfill.
“Around the world, we consume roughly 62 million [metric] tons of textiles a year and around 87% of the total fiber input used for clothing is either landfilled or incinerated,” said Jones. “Companies such as Planq take jeans, then shred and press them with potato or corn starch to create a hard veneer that could be used for seat shells or dash centers. The SMS design study was created by CALLUM to illustrate that there is another way, and we can support manufacturers and suppliers [to] identify engineered alternatives that end consumers are increasingly looking for.”
The seat centers chosen for the design study are made from Camira, a fabric produced using marine plastic waste such as polyester. For the bolsters, the team chose Féline, a soft material manufactured using PET bottles. Both of the materials are lightweight and can also be recycled if the vehicle or the material reaches the end of their service life. For the carpet, Jones selected Econyl, a hard-wearing material produced from nylon carpets or fishing nets.
“More of our customers are starting to think about sustainable projects and put an emphasis on the circular economy,” commented Callum. “With others, we might nudge them down that path, highlighting the business benefits of making a more sustainable choice.”