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Audi Goes From Bottles to Coddled With Recycled Plastic Seats

The newest version of its A3 will get sustainable interior choices.

Evan Williams By: Evan Williams February 25, 2020
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Audi has just announced that the newest version of its A3 will get new and more sustainable interior choices. The new seat upholstery is made from recycled plastic bottles and joins a growing movement among automakers to work to reduce the environmental impact of cars beyond just what comes from the tailpipe.

It’s a new seat fabric that’s made from recycled PET bottles. Pop bottles. Audi says that up to 89 percent of the textile used in the Torsion and Puls seating options. The former is a grey with yellow contrasting and the latter is an S line trim with black and silver plus grey contrast stitching.

The bottles are crushed and ground into flakes, which are then washed, dried, and melted down to become granules. Those granules are then melted and extruded through a machine that sends threads out the other end. Those threads are used to make the seat upholstery. Audi says that 45 1.5L bottles are used per seating system, and on top of that another 62 bottles are used to make the car’s carpet. Audi says that it wants the percentage of recycled materials in its cars to “rise considerably in the coming years.”

Grönheim

Not all of the new seating surface is recycled yet, though Audi is working on it. “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.” The company says that long-term, all of its models will use recycled material for the seats.

Audi isn’t the only automaker working to improve the sustainability of their interiors, and they’re all a far cry from the biodegradable wiring insulation of the 1990s. Ford has announced using recycled bottles in the interior, rice hulls to reinforce plastics, and other plastic waste and plant waste-based parts. Volvo and Polestar have recently revealed plans to use cork, bottles, and recycled fishing nets in their vehicles, and along the same lines, Ford is recycling its modelling clay and Land Rover has been turning foam from its styling models into pro-level surfboards.

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