Sustainable materials and the automotive industry

sustainability and evs

The climate crisis is the crisis of our times. Increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, coupled with rising sea levels and rising global temperatures, are serving to herald a world hostile to life – and one created by human efforts and intervention.

Governments around the world are working to reduce carbon emissions and fund green initiatives, while public pressure grows all the greater for a more sustainable world.

Sustainability, then, is a key pressure point for all industries, with industrial contributions to environmental pollution greater on balance than individual impacts.

The automotive industry is a leader for emissions, not just with regard to the facilitation of fossil fuel usage but also with regard to the materials and manufacturing processes involved in the mass-production of vehicles. Sustainable materials represent a crucial part of the industry’s future, but in what ways?

The Drive for Sustainability

Sustainability in the automotive industry has been historically difficult to reconcile, given the near-incalculable degree of carbon emissions for which the internal combustion engine is responsible. The humble car is the most pollutive form of transport per person per kilometre, second only to modes of air travel.

The proliferation of new electric vehicles (EVs) is slowly working to shift public vehicle usage away from fossil fuels – but fuel usage is not directly pinned to automotive manufacturers.

Rather, automotive manufacturing causes pollution through the use of, and energy used in the supply of, unsustainable materials. Between government imperative and public pressure, there is an industry-wide drive for change.

Sustainable Materials and Vehicle Design

Such solutions to the sustainability problem come largely in the form of recycled materials. Where single-use and petroleum-based plastics became a regular fixture for car interiors and trims, recycled alternatives represent a less pollutive route for manufacturers to take.

Investment in lightweight composites also allows manufacturers to rely less on heavier pollutive materials and material mining, while improving fuel efficiency on the user end.

Challenges and Benefits

One of the key challenges to this sea change in vehicle development comes in the form of affordability. Cars may become more expensive to accommodate the higher supply and manufacturing costs folded into switching to sustainable materials, as manufacturers aim to offset costs on the consumer. A gap insurance quote would be the individual route to covering this increased value after purchase for the individual, but on a national level this could result in a downward trend of new drivers.

The benefits, though, are vast. With larger-scale manufacturers buying into sustainable materials and processes in greater numbers, these industries receive significant investment and expansion potential, accelerating development and iteration of even more sustainable materials and processes.

With demand and investment comes development and innovation, leading us at a much quicker pace to a sustainable industrial future.

Alfred drives a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus but has his eye on a fully-electric pick-up truck. He'd love an electric Ford Ranger, which should be a real thing in a few years!