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Volvo Cars Invests in Flax Fibers for Sustainable Interiors

What the car runs on is just one part of sustainable driving– how it’s made is another.

Volvo Cars has been moving away from traditional “luxury” materials like leather in its car interiors. Most recently, the company made a strategic investment in Bcomp, an innovative firm that’s developing high-performance, lightweight materials based on natural flax fibers to replace conventional, petroleum-based plastics.

Bcomp uses flax because it’s a biological material that offers significant savings in terms of weight, energy use, and emissions versus regular plastic parts, and opens up new design possibilities in terms of surface aesthetics. Both Volvo and its spinoff performance BEV brand, Polestar, are expected to make use of the flax-based “plastics” in their next-generation “vegan” interiors.

Polestar 2 interior, by Kyle Field.

“This investment is yet another example of our commitment to sustainability and strategic focus on reducing our carbon footprint,” said Alexander Petrofski, Head of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. “We have a long tradition of partnering with leading technology firms such as Bcomp, as we see joint benefits in helping them to scale and develop innovative products in global markets.”

The petroleum-free flax material has already made an appearance inside the Volvo Cars Concept Recharge and (presumably) the more recent Polestar O2 roadster, with the flax composite appearing in the lower storage areas, the back of the headrest, and the driver/passenger footwells. On the exterior, the cars’ front and rear bumpers and door sills are made from the flax material.

Volvo maintains their ambition to continuously reduce their carbon emissions, and eventually become truly climate neutral by 2040 as part of the Volvo Cars’ climate action plan. One of the most ambitious such plans in the industry, the company plans to cut the current lifetime carbon emissions of each of its cars by 40 percent (compared to 2018) by model year 2025.

Polestar, meanwhile, is holding fast to its promise to build a truly carbon neutral car by 2030– and they plan to do that without the kind of government “offset” credits that have led to so much controversy at Tesla. “Offsetting is a cop-out,” says Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar CEO. “By pushing ourselves to create a completely climate-neutral car, we are forced to reach beyond what is possible today. We will have to question everything, innovate, and look to exponential technologies as we design towards zero.”

What do you guys think? Is this investment in renewable plastic materials an example of genuine concern and progressive thinking, or are Volvo and Polestar just doing a better job greenwashing its products than the other car companies out there? What did you think about that jab at Tesla, while we’re at it? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know.

Source | Images: Volvo Cars.
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I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and have been a part of the Important Media Network since 2008. You can find me here, working on my Volvo fansite, riding a motorcycle around Chicago, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.


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