The seat cover of the EV9 concept car made of eco-friendly materials The seat cover of the EV9 concept car made of eco-friendly materials

2022.04.29 Hyundai Motor Group 분량8min

How Far Eco-Friendly Materials In Cars Have Come

Innovation is taking place in automotive interior materials; global automakers are using eco-friendly materials more than ever. Here are how automakers, including Hyundai Motor Group, are currently using eco-friendly materials.

Hyundai Motor Company's eco-friendly electric vehicle, the Ioniq 5, stands in the background of a wind power plant

Now, the automotive industry is running towards the future, creating new mobility through new power sources. There is a movement to create a sustainable world by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. These changes are also taking place in the materials that make up automobiles. The goal is to reduce the impact on the environment by using eco-friendly materials for the interior and exterior of automobiles. To this end, global automakers and auto part manufacturers are putting a lot of effort into developing eco-friendly materials. So, how far have eco-friendly materials for automobiles come? Here are details on how global automakers, including Hyundai Motor Group, use eco-friendly materials.

Inevitable Changes: Car materials are getting greener

The interior of Hyundai's first dedicated electric vehicle, the Ioniq 5

Hyundai Motor Company’s first dedicated electric vehicle, the IONIQ 5, is also full of eco-friendly aspects

Eco-friendly materials used in automobiles must include environmentally friendly elements in at least one part of the completion process, from raw materials to manufacturing. It is imperative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by changing some raw materials or introducing new technologies into the production process. Of course, the durability and safety of the vehicle must also be ensured. All of this is never easy. Nevertheless, the auto industry is striving to reduce carbon emissions from the entire life cycle of an automobile - from raw materials to manufacturing processes to disposal - following the global trend of ‘carbon neutral.’ Achieving carbon neutrality is no longer an option; it is a necessity.

Eco-friendly materials play the most significant role in achieving this carbon neutrality. Because plants - natural raw materials - absorb carbon dioxide during growth, they offset some of the carbon footprints of the car’s life cycle from the beginning of its production. In other words, the higher the proportion of eco-friendly interior materials or raw materials used, the more advantageous it is to reduce carbon dioxide and volatile organic compound emissions. At the same time, the automobile industry is actively using recycled materials and is paying attention to ‘vegan leather,’ considering not only environmental issues but also ethical issues.

Accordingly, global automakers place sustainability as their top priority and are expanding the use of eco-friendly materials. For example, Mercedes-Benz filled the interior of its recently unveiled all-electric concept car, the Vision EQXX, with sustainable lightweight materials. The door handle is made of bio-steel fiber, which is stronger than steel and biodegradable, and artificial leather made from mushrooms and cactus is used for the seat. The floor mats are also made from recyclable bamboo fiber. Mercedes explains that the carbon footprint of artificial leather is reduced by about half compared to genuine leather. For reference, Mercedes-Benz plans to raise the percentage of recycled materials made by upcycling waste fishing nets and plastic bottles to an average of 40% by 2039.

Interior view of Mercedes-Benz's electric concept car, Vision EQXX

The interior of Mercedes-Benz’s electric concept car, the Vision EQXX. Photo: Mercedes-Benz website (

BMW also emphasized its commitment to using eco-friendly materials by unveiling the pure electric concept model ‘BMW i Vision Circular’ made using only 100% recyclable materials at IAA Mobility 2021. Since the Circular is made of recycled materials such as steel, plastic, rubber, and glass used in the interior, as well as the steel that makes up the body, all parts can be recycled even after the car is no longer used. In addition, each part was assembled without using adhesives, and some parts were manufactured using a 3D printing process to minimize parts discarded during the manufacturing stage. The BMW Group plans to significantly reduce carbon emissions by expanding the use of recycled plastics, natural fibers, bio-plastics, and vegan leather, both inside and outside vehicles.

The interior of BMW's eco-friendly electric concept car, the BMW i Vision Circular

The dashboard of the BMW i Vision Circular - BMW’s eco-friendly electric concept. Photo: BMW website (

According to the announcement, 25% of Volvo’s new cars released after 2025 will be made of recycled/bio plastic. The automaker will first make dashboards, dashboards, floor mats, and seats from these materials. Additionally, in the future, it plans to expand to more diverse areas, such as bio-based materials and recycled materials made from upcycled plastic bottles and cork. Volvo’s eco-friendly material strategy is also revealed through its all-electric concept, ‘Concept Recharge.’ The interior of the Concept Recharge is filled with lightweight materials using eco-friendly fabrics and natural materials.

The rear seats of the Volvo Concept Recharge

The rear seats of Volvo’s concept car, the Concept Recharge. Photo: Volvo website (

General Motors (GM) is developing its own measurement solution to develop and apply eco-friendly materials. This is to create a systematic development and management environment in consideration of design, material and product design, supply chain, etc., not just using alternative raw materials. Through this, the goal is to build a sustainable economy in which resources and materials are continuously reused. Of course, GM is also using eco-friendly materials in the products it is currently producing. The ‘HUMMER EV,’ an electric SUV of GMC under GM, also emphasized the fact that it is eco-friendly mobility by using alternative materials rather than genuine leather. For reference, GM is also introducing an eco-friendly strategy to automotive packaging. It plans to replace all the packaging materials with completely disposable materials by 2030.

The interior of the GMC Hummer EV SUV

The interior of GMC’s electric SUV, the Hummer EV. Photo: GMC website (

Hyundai Motor Group’s development of eco-friendly materials began in the mid-1990s

The interior of Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered vehicle, the Nexo

The dashboard of the hydrogen-electric vehicle ‘Nexo’ is made of bioplastic

Hyundai Motor Group started developing eco-friendly materials in the mid-1990s and has been actively using them since the early 2000s - a composite material using kenaf in Trunk shelf covers of the 5th-generation Granger and 7th-generation Sonata, for example. In addition, Kia introduced eco-friendly interior materials such as bio-plastic and sugar cane bio-fiber through the second-generation ‘Soul EV’ in 2014. Thanks to this, the Soul EV was the first in the world to receive Environmental Claim Validation from UL (Underwriters Laboratories) of the US, which checks whether eco-friendly materials are used and analyzes them.

Since then, Hyundai Motor Group’s eco-friendly materials have grown rapidly with the advent of next-generation eco-friendly vehicles such as electric vehicles and hydrogen-electric vehicles. For example, Hyundai Motor Company’s eco-friendly model IONIQ, launched in 2016, increased the use rate enough for the owners to recognize eco-friendly materials at once. Bioplastic with an increased ratio of wood fiber was used for the door trim and other interior materials. Also, Tencel fabric, an eco-friendly material made from eucalyptus tree extract, was used for the seat. For the body, the automaker used eco-friendly paint containing coconut seed extract. For Hyundai’s Nexo, bio-plastic was used for the dashboard, center fascia, lower panel, console cover, and steering wheel bezel, and the rest was wrapped with bio-fiber. In addition, Nexo showed that the use of eco-friendly materials is not limited to interior materials by recycling waste plastics, even for some exterior finishes.

Hyundai Motor Group completes future mobility with eco-friendly materials

Interior of Hyundai Ioniq 5 using various eco-friendly and recycled materials

The interior of Hyundai’s ‘IONIQ 5’ with various eco-friendly and recycled materials

Hyundai Motor Group is actively putting its eco-friendly material technology accumulated over a long time into the latest electric vehicle models. Hyundai’s IONIQ 5 is a good example, which actively utilizes eco-friendly and recycled materials. The IONIQ 5 uses paint containing bio-oil ingredients extracted from plants such as rapeseeds and corn for the door trim, door switch, and crash pad finish. Interior ceiling finishing materials, seat covers, floor mats, and floor carpets are made of fabrics containing bio-PET yarns extracted from sugar cane and corn, and door armrests and seat covers are made of fibers made from recycled plastic bottles.

In addition, Paperlet used in the IONIQ 5’s door garnish is a reusable and recyclable high-density polyethylene, which is a non-toxic, eco-friendly plastic used for children’s toys and food containers. The IONIQ 5 is the first to use Paperlet as a material for interior garnishes.

Seven uses eco-friendly interior materials to create a more comfortable lounge-like atmosphere

‘Seven’ uses eco-friendly interior materials to create a more comfortable lounge-like atmosphere

Hyundai Motor Company significantly expanded the use of eco-friendly materials through the concept car ‘Seven’ unveiled at the LA Auto Show last year. The exterior is finished with bio-paint, and renewable recycled materials are used all over the body. Of course, bamboo fiber, bio-resin, and eco-friendly paint for indoor use are made of renewable raw materials that reduce environmental pollution during the manufacturing processes.

The interior of Kia's EV6, an eco-friendly electric vehicle

‘EV6’ contains Kia’s will for sustainable growth

The EV6, Kia’s first pure electric vehicle, is also participating in carbon emission reduction by using eco-friendly or recycled materials in various parts of the interior. The Nappa leather seats undergo an eco-friendly process using flax seed extract to reduce environmental pollution, and the door pockets and floor mats are made of recycled plastic waste. For reference, the eco-friendly material used for one EV6 is equivalent to about 75 500ml PET bottles. Thanks to these efforts, through the EV6, Kia became the first Korean automaker to earn a carbon footprint certification from the Carbon Trust, a non-profit organization specializing in eco-friendly certification in the UK.

The interior of The Kia EV Concept EV9, which uses eco-friendly materials to create a premium lounge-like atmosphere

‘The Kia Concept EV9’ features a cabin that reminds of a premium lounge while using eco-friendly materials

Sustainable materials were also used in the Kia Concept EV9, a concept car that Kia introduced last year. Inspired by the sea and water, this model was built mainly using waste fishing nets and plastic waste that pollute the ocean. The flooring is made from recycled fishing nets, and the seat covers are made from recycled plastic and wool. In addition, most of the interior materials, including the seats, are finished in vegan leather manufactured more ethically and sustainably than genuine leather. In the future, Kia plans to reduce the use of animal skins in all of its future models.

Genesis GV70 electrified model with eco-friendly materials in the headrest and seat cover

The Electrified GV70’s headrest and seat cover contain eco-friendly materials

Hyundai Motor Group’s premium brand, Genesis, is also gradually expanding the use of eco-friendly materials through electrified models. The Electrified GV70’s headlining was finished using fabrics from recycled PET, and natural fabrics containing 30% wool were also used for the front of the headrest and the seat side. In addition, the Electrified G80 uses forged wood decoration - made from wood chips generated in the furniture manufacturing process - and natural dyes are used for the leather seats, consoles, and second-row armrests. In addition, the automaker realized the sustainability they pursue by using eco-friendly fabrics made from yarn extracted from recycled PET.

Hyundai Motor Company's eco-friendly electric car Ioniq 5 stands facing the wind power plant

The IONIQ 5 shows the philosophy of Hyundai Motor, which has been reborn as a sustainable mobility solution company

Currently, the global automobile industry is moving towards the era of eco-friendly automobiles. Accordingly, the importance of eco-friendly materials is increasing. However, eco-friendly materials for automobiles are not completed overnight. It is possible only with a strong will for positive change and continuous technological development. Hyundai Motor Group plans to contribute to reducing waste by upcycling waste resources such as PET bottles and waste fishing nets, and it will expand the development of non-food biomaterials and the use of waste resources. As such, Hyundai Motor Group’s efforts for our lives and the environment will continue.