The materials used to make cars in the US have evolved over the years, with steel and other metals evolving into a mix of metal and plastic. But in an effort to be more environmentally friendly, some automakers are moving toward using more sustainable and recycled materials in their electric vehicles (EVs).
Companies like Ford, Citröen, Hyundai and Polestar have announced plans to use more sustainable materials or have already started doing so. Ford even won an award in 2022 at Altair’s Enlighten Awards for using sustainable materials in its F-150 Lightning electric pickup. We’ll go through some of the materials these innovative automaker are using to make interesting EVs while reducing, reusing and recycling.
Did you say cardboard?
In 2022, Citröen debuted the Oli EV concept car, which is partially made of recycled cardboard. This results in a lighter vehicle, coming in at around 2,200 pounds. And don’t worry because not all of the Oli is made from cardboard – only the hood, bed and roof. You won’t be sitting on a cardboard seat! The downside to the materials this EV is made from, as well as the focus on keeping the Oli’s weight down, is that it doesn’t go above 70 miles per hour. It’s more of a city car that’s the perfect size for fitting into small parking spots. One bonus is that it does have a range of about 250 miles, so if you do stay in town you won’t have to recharge every day.
From the ocean to your truck
Ford Motor Company has been focusing on improving the sustainability of the vehicles it produces, and put some its ideas into the new F-150 lightning, its popular electric pickup. With the aim of reducing the sea of plastic floating in the world’s oceans, Ford has made the wiring harness clips in the F-150 Lightning out of 100% post-consumer ocean plastic. This component was first used in its Ford Bronco Sport, and in the future other vehicle parts will be made of recycled plastic.
Even your car can be vegan
Swedish EV carmaker Polestar, a collaboration between Volvo and Geely, has been focusing on building cars from sustainable materials since 2020. The interiors of its EVs feature seats made of fabric from natural fiber, as well as 3D-printed fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. But that’s not all! You’ll also find elements made from cork and recycled fishing nets. And it’s Polestar’s goal to make its auto production climate neutral by 2030, with no carbon emissions.
From the cornfield to your seat
The new IONIQ 5 EV from Hyundai not only looks futuristic, but the materials used to make interior components are also forward thinking. According to the company, each of these vehicles contains up to 32 recycled PET bottles, sugar cane and mixed corn, wool, flaxseed oil and recyclable paperette, as well as wool. The recycled bottles are melted and woven into seat fabric, while the sugar cane and corn are turned into seat, headlining and carpet fabric. Flaxseed oil is used as a plant-based dye for leather components and the doors contain paperette, while wool is also used in the seat fabric.
As demand for EVs grows, automakers will search for more sustainable ways to make them. While it’s difficult to make a car body out of alternative materials rather than metal, the interior components are easier to experiment with. Among the materials being tested are cellulose fibers and flax for upholstery and strengthening other components, tomato skins, and chitin, a naturally occurring polymer found in crustacean shells. With all of these unconventional materials already being used or experimented with, who knows what will be next?