Sustainable Car Interior Materials Hero

UK design firm presents sustainable car interior made of recycled foodstuffs

Image credit: Callum Designs

Coffee, eggs, walnuts, rice and lentils could be just as likely found in your future car’s interior as your shopping basket, according to a new study by design and engineering consultancy Callum.

Designers and engineers at Callum went beyond materials already under consideration to identify fresh sustainable options that its customers could benefit from choosing through its 'SMS' design study. The study was intended to send a message to the automotive industry that sustainable alternatives are feasible.

Using a retromod Porsche 911 interior as the basis for the research, the team - led by Charlotte Jones and British designer Ian Callum CBE - identified coffee pulp, eggshells, red lentils, walnuts and rice as viable materials for a car interior in 2030.

Sustainable Car Interior Materials Inline 1

Image credit: Callum Designs

With thousands of tonnes of food going to waste every day in the UK alone, Callum consulted with green-tech company Ottan to determine the most appropriate materials capable of replacing plastics yet still meeting the rigorous design, environmental and engineering requirements of a car.

Solutions identified that could meet the temperature and wear specifications included adopting eggshells mixed with resin to create a smooth, opaque material with either a glossy or matt surface. Application examples included the trim surround for the window switches. By adding walnut shells to the eggshells, the recycled content of Ottan’s material increased to 84 per cent from 78 per cent.

Out-of-date rice or lentils could also be turned into a smooth translucent material, ideal for illuminated areas of the car such as lamp covers or illuminated switches. As a flame-resistant alternative, coffee pulp could replace traditional plastics for glossy, decorative trim such as dashboard inserts.

Sustainable Car Interior Materials Inline 2

Image credit: Callum Designs

Keen to demonstrate that sustainable materials can still offer vivid colours, Callum identified purple carrot pulp, which could produce a mulberry-like colour for trim parts. Tree leaves could also be recycled into a dark, smooth surface to offer an alternative natural finish to wood veneers for the centre console or dashboard.

With seats requiring a blend of wear resistance, comfort and colour fastness, Callum opted for preloved materials that would usually go to landfill.

“Around the world, we consume roughly 62 million tonnes of textiles a year and around 87 per cent of the total fibre input used for clothing is either landfilled or incinerated,” said Charlotte Jones, Callum’s head of materials and sustainability.

“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 centres. The SMS design study was created by Callum to illustrate that there is another way and we can support manufacturers and suppliers identify engineered alternatives that end-consumers are increasingly looking for.”

Sustainable Car Interior Materials Inline 3

Image credit: Callum Designs

The seat centre facings in the Callum design study used Camira, a fabric made from marine plastic waste such as polyester, whilst the bolster surfaces are covered in Féline, a soft material produced from PET bottles. Each offers no weight penalty, another factor considered for the restomod upon which the study is based, and crucially each can be recycled again if needed. For the carpet, Jones proposed Econyl, a material that uses nylon carpets or fishing nets to create a new hard-wearing fabric.

Whilst SMS is a concept, Callum selected materials that meet or have the potential to meet existing automotive requirements and be production feasible by 2030. The next step is to trial the materials in upcoming projects. Demonstrating the relevance of its sustainability studies, Callum has already engineered a hemp/flax composite option that buyers can now select on its latest project, the Barq EV scooter.

“More of our customers are starting to think about sustainable projects and put an emphasis on the circular economy. With others, we might nudge them down that path, highlighting the business benefits of making a more sustainable choice,” added Callum, the eponymous company co-founder and design director.

Sustainable Car Interior Materials Inline 4

Image credit: Callum Designs

Warwick-based Callum is a British design and engineering business, creating bespoke and limited-edition products from within its 20,000ft2 facility facility housing the latest technology to deliver design, prototyping, machining and trim services.

Ian Callum is well-known for his previous automotive design work, including the Aston Martin's Vanquish, Vantage and DB9, Jaguar's F-Type, F-Pace, XJ and the World Car of the Year award-winning I-Pace, amongst others.

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