The BMW Group plans to launch its first vehicles featuring completely vegan interiors in 2023. This is being made possible primarily through the development of innovative materials with leather-like properties. It will also be possible to use these materials for steering wheel surfaces, which must fulfil demanding criteria when it comes to feel, premium appearance and wear resistance. Fully vegan interiors will be available for both BMW and MINI models for the first time from 2023. The BMW Group is thus serving the demand for vegan and leather-free interiors, which is set to increase further in the near future, especially in the US, China and Europe.
The reduction of CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle of a vehicle is the central goal of the BMW Group on the road to climate neutrality, which is to be achieved by 2050 at the latest. Material selection has a key role to play in achieving this goal. Replacing raw materials of animal origin makes a significant contribution to increasing sustainability in vehicle production. The introduction of a new surface material for steering wheels will see the proportion of vehicle components that contain traces of raw materials of animal origin fall to less than one percent in the respective BMW and MINI vehicles. As a result, these materials will now only be found in areas that are not visible to the customer, for example in various waxy substances such as gelatine used in protective coatings, lanolin in paints, tallow as an additive in elastomers and beeswax as a flux for paints.
The BMW Group has for a long time been offering various fabric alternatives to leather. Now, for the first time, it is possible to offer a suitable substitute for leather for the most important interface between driver and vehicle. The steering wheel surfaces must fulfil demanding criteria when it comes to appearance, wear resistance and durability. “With a steering wheel made from a high-quality vegan surface material, we are fulfilling the wishes of our customers who do not want to make any compromises in terms of look, feel and functionality. The innovative material withstands wear and tear caused by abrasion, perspiration and moisture and has all the desirable properties of leather,” says Uwe Köhler, Head of Development Body, Exterior Trim, Interior at the BMW Group. The only distinguishing feature of the new material will be a new grain effect on the steering wheel rim.