Vehicles are the most recycled consumer item in the U.S. That’s great news for when you are done with your vehicle, but what about sustainable assembly practices? The car industry has changed with the times, and now there’s a Subaru factory in Lafayette, Indiana that recycles 99.6% of their waste. It’s not the only one. If you’re looking for a different type of green car, made in a zero-waste factory or with soybean foam seat pads, then these vehicles are for you. Here are a few vehicles that you can feel good about owning, for many reasons.
Bio-composites and bio-fibers are a big deal in modern car manufacturing, with dozens of new models subtly sneaking in environmentally friendly construction. One of these vehicles is the Audi A3. With cotton fiber in the floor mats, recycled paper under the trunk floor, and a cellulose headliner, the A3 shows you can have all the benefits of a modern entry luxury ride with responsible construction techniques and no drawbacks. The results are vehicle parts that are lighter than previous designs, use less petroleum products during construction, and prove just as strong and durable over the life of the vehicle. The A3 also is fuel efficient, with the ablilty to hit 33 MPG.
The Dodge Dart (and corporate sibling Chrysler 200) delivered many unique environmental practices in a compact car. One of the notable standouts involves old milk jugs being shredded and woven into the carpet fibers. It’s an earth-friendly move that is cost-effective and practical, as the carpet looks contemporary and feels as soft as you would expect. Another unique design recycles old jeans into the sound absorbing trunk liner. While most vehicles are recycled for scrap metal at the end of their life, all of the Dart’s plastics are recyclable too. Dodge says the power steering fluid is a non-toxic version now, and you can save money and the environment with longer, 8,000-mile recommended oil changes. Engineers sweat the details on the Dart’s aerodynamics too, which resulted in a 10% decrease in carbon emissions. Go easy on the throttle, and the Dart is easy on your wallet, to the tune of 41 MPG on the highway.
You’ve probably heard that plastic water bottles are terrible for the environment, taking forever to break down, and often ending up floating in the oceans for years. Ford wants to change that by using those plastic bottles in the interior of their vehicles. The 2013+ Ford Fusion debuted seats made from REPREVE® yarn, which is a mix of plastic bottles and industrial waste fabric. While “water bottle seats” sounds weird, the plastic gets melted down and formed into fibers before making seats, so it’s basically an all-new material. Here’s a neat 4-minute video showing how this recycled fabric is made. Ford says that approximately 40 bottles make up each seat in the Fusion, while 22 bottles make it into the Ford Focus‘ seats. It’s proved a durable material, and became the standard fabric in the Ford F-150 in 2015. As for results? To date, their website shows over 10 billion plastic bottles recycled.
Lincoln is no stranger to wood interiors, although that’s usually an attractive hardwood trim found on the dash. New within the past few years is a cellulose fiber reinforced thermoplastic, meaning it’s responsibly sourced and easily recyclable. Previously, Lincoln used non-recyclable fiberglass on these interior trim like the center console, but with this product (marketed as THRIVE fabric), the cellulose is grown in sustainably managed forests, making an earth-friendly renewable product. This seems high tech and cool, but is actually a really old idea. Henry Ford experimented with hemp plastic body panels on cars in the 1940s.
Manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz are using the environmental movement to create not just environmentally friendly cars, but using green engineering technologies to build all-around better cars. As proof, the 2015+ C-Class was designed with the environment in mind, and several design decisions helped achieve an earth friendly vehicle that still delivers the expected level of luxury. Renewable materials are used in 76 interior pieces – from the seats and door panels to gauge cluster and switches. Recycled plastics compose 52 components mainly in hidden parts, like the fender liners and interior trunk trim. The results proved worth the time and expense, as the current C-Class is 220 lbs lighter,and 20% more efficient than the previous model.
Sugar cane has been used to make ethanol fuel for years, but recently found another use in vehicle construction. Toyota has been working on bio-plastics since 2000, and recently found a way to use sugar cane ethanol to replace petroleum products in the formulation of interior plastic parts. The parts reduce carbon emissions as the sugar cane grows and absorbs C02, and the parts are competitively priced and durable compared to petroleum plastics. Soy based seat cushions round out the interior, creating a comfortable, high-quality, and stylish interior that you can feel good about seeing every day. This is the best-selling crossover in the United States, selling over 400,000 vehicles in 2017. Meaning bio-plastics are mainstream enough to pass the critic’s tests and meet the driver’s expectations.