Sustainability

Audi utilizes recycled PET bottles for interior of new A3

The journey from plastic bottle to seating material ends with the plastic incorporated in to the Audi A3.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

As buyers become more eco-conscious, they're switching buying behaviors, opting for up-cycled and recycled materials more and more. Many industries are latching onto the trend and designing products out of recycled cloth, PET bottles, and rubber. Ford has been one of the leaders in this movement, showing off its tomato-infused trunk and soy-filled seats half a decade ago.

Now, Audi is getting in on the game and signaling that the innovation is part of the company's larger corporate strategy of sustainability.

2020 Audi A3 sedan Audi hopes to include recycled material in all its seats soon.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Seat upholstery in the fourth-generation Audi A3 is made from secondary raw materials. Up to 89 percent of the textile used consists of recycled PET bottles.

According to Audi, here's how the process works:

The bottle disappears in the hole of the reverse vending machine, and the customer in Germany gets €0.25. But what happens then? While still in the shop, the disposable bottles are compressed for truck transport in order to save space. Once they have arrived at the recycling plant, they are sorted by color, size and quality. Foreign matter such as the caps are separated. A mill then crushes the bottles into flakes, which are washed, dried and melted down. Nozzles shape continuous plastic strands out of the mass. Once they have dried, a machine chops them into small pieces. This results in granulate, otherwise known as recyclate, and this undergoes extrusion to create threads. Wound onto coils, these are used in the final stage to manufacture materials.

The material from up to 45 PET bottles ends up in as part of a seating system. Additionally, 62 PET bottles per vehicle are recycled and used for the A3's carpeting.

Why is just 89 percent of the seat made up of recycled material? "The lower layer of woven material, which is connected to the upper material with adhesive, is what poses the challenge. We are working on replacing this with recyclable polyester," says Ute Grönheim, who is in charge of material development in the textiles division at Audi. "It is our goal to make the seat upholstery completely from unmixed material so that it can be recycled again. We are no longer very far away from this."

Audi is using secondary raw materials in other parts of the vehicle as well including the side panel trims of the luggage compartment, the loading floor, and the mats. The company has set the goal of making all seat upholstery material, across all model series, from recycled material.

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Acura is revealing its next-gen MDX slowly, first with this, the MDX Prototype.

Photo courtesy of Acura

The MDX is the best-selling Acura in the lineup. It's also America's best-selling luxury three-row SUV. But that's not good enough.

Acura is redesigning the MDX and as it prepares to enter a fourth generation, a prototype of the new SUV will be shown on October 14. This looks to follow the same pattern as the TLX launch, which saw a prototype revealed about six months before the true model debut, just after the PMC Edition was put on sale.

Acura says that the next-gen MDX will usher in " new levels of Acura design, performance, technology and craftsmanship, assuming the mantle as the brand's new flagship model". And that's a good thing. The brand revolution that started with the RDX and continued with the TLX looks to go even further in a bid to re-establish Acura on its premium model throne.

The ofirst MDX was the industry's first three-row SUV based on a unibody platform, a design that has since gone mainstream as crossovers and lifestyle SUVs overrun a vehicle type that started as rugged off-roaders and family trucksters. Since it's debut, the MDX has garnered praise from buyers and critics alike including winning the 2001 North American Truck of the Year and 2001 Motor Trend SUV of the Year awards.

Over the past two decades, cumulative sales have surpassed 1 million units, securing MDX's place as the best-selling Acura model, accounting for roughly one-third of the brand's U.S. sales since its launch.

"We're accelerating Acura's commitment to Precision Crafted Performance and this fourth-generation MDX is the most ambitious and consequential redesign of an Acura core model in our history," said Jon Ikeda, vice president and Acura brand officer. "This all-new MDX will take us into new territory in terms of performance, prestige and emotional appeal."

The teaser image (above) and video (below) that were released today highlight the sharply sculpted beltline running the perimeter of the wider, lower and longer MDX, connecting the Jewel Eye LED headlights at the front to the Chicane LED taillights in the rear.

The MDX Prototype pulls heavily from the RDX and TLX with design nods to each. Still, it's unmistakably a three-row SUV. Though we don't know for sure what's under the hood, expect the MDX to have more a dynamic driving style when it debuts, following in the vein of the RDX and TLX redesigns.

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The material Jaguar Land Rover is adding to its vehicle interiors is called Econyl.

Photo courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

As automaker work toward more sustainable business practices, Jaguar Land Rover is working with Econyl nylon to develop high-quality interiors made from ocean and landfill waste. The automaker promises that next-generation Jaguar and Land Rover models will feature floor mats and trims made with Econyl fiber from recycled industrial plastic, fabric offcuts from clothing manufacturers, fishing nets from the farming industry, and those abandoned in the ocean– known as 'ghost nets'.

Econyl nylon was created by Aquafil. It's already been sued in the high-end fashion, sportswear, and luxury watch industries to create handbags, backpacks, swimwear, and watch straps. In one year, the company recycles as much as 40,000 tons of waste, making it in to the nylon. For every 10,000 tonnes of Econyl raw material produced, 70,000 barrels of crude oil are saved and 65,100 tons of carbon emissions equivalent are avoided.

Jaguar Land Rover Econyl interior Jaguar Land Rover has committed to including more sustainable materials in its interiors.Photo courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

Turning to sustainable materials isn't a new idea. For years Ford has been incorporating all manner of materials into its vehicles including tomatoes, soy, and coffee chaff from McDonald's. General Motors recently showcased a breakdown of how recycled materials are used inside their automobiles.

Bentley's facility in Crewe, England is collecting rainwater for use in its office building allowing the company to not have to draw from the local water system.

Each year automakers release their sustainability report, which champions all the ways that the company is moving forward in its resources conservation plans. This year's GM report sets forth numerous goals. Among them, by 2030, 50 percent of the parts used in General Motors vehicles will be made with sustainable materials. Additionally, GM's Spring Hill plant in Tennessee will run solely on solar power by 2022.

FCA made big strides in 2019. Their 2020 sustainability report touted their 40 percent reduction in water use and 27 percent carbon footprint reduction per vehicle.

Jaguar Land Rover Econyl interior Photo courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

This week Polestar announced that its Precept concept vehicle is headed into production. When the Precept debuted a few months ago, the company bragged about its sustainable interior.

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