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What makes up the most Earth-friendly EV?

Aug. 4, 2021

What does it take to build the most advanced electric vehicle on the market?

Lucid Motors' Sue Magnusson

What does it take to build the most advanced electric vehicle on the market?

Traditional ways aren’t helping our Earth. In fact, they are doing untold damage. It isn’t enough to focus only on electrification. Sustainability and the use of sustainable materials is now a central part of the design mission. We can’t make a case that driving an EV is better for the planet without also looking at the materials that go into the interior of the car itself.

The entire EV industry has to think about the impact of every choice they make. It’s about much more than good business…it’s about the future.

Consumers are embracing more conscious lifestyles. They seek out products that align with their desire to provide a sustainable future not only for their families but also for the benefit of the planet. They are buying in bulk, choosing organic foods and products, eschewing single-use plastics, and supporting brands that have similar values. We’re all more educated about the harm certain materials are doing to the oceans and landfills, and we all want to be part of a positive change. Aligning with these values, prioritizing those initiatives, and looking forward together has to be a core vision of every EV player.

As a color, materials and finishes designer, I can see the paradigm shift in real time. As a vehicle manufacturer, when we make sustainable requests of our suppliers, they in turn begin to shift their own thinking and practices. And because there is a growing market for this approach, it strengthens their business position. Then the same thing happens with their own vendors, and so on. It’s a ripple effect that may feel small when we look at what we’re up against, but it is a vital part of the solution. Leading by example, and setting uncompromised standards allows us to have flexibility to do great things, and the right thing.

Designing a highly-efficient car means asking ourselves how we can do better, in every way—from how energy consumption is minimized throughout the car to how effectively air flows into and around it. High efficiency is central to all car design, but it doesn’t always align with Earth friendliness. The use of sustainably sourced materials is an integral part of our design philosophy. At every step, we must ask suppliers where the raw goods come from, how they’re harvested, how the factories are run and how they address the safety of their workers. In short, to be chosen as a manufacturer, you have to keep the longevity of the Earth in mind. We’re seeing a large uptick in this mindset industry-wide.

Something I am especially fond of is the recycled polyester and alpaca-wool blend used in the interior of our vehicles. It leverages the natural colors of the wool, which in turn allows us to use less dye. For wood decors, these can be sourced from certified forests and, because we should insist on less processing, it actually looks and feels like natural wood…something that has become a part of new design aesthetics. There is a cascading effect; we see each decision affecting the next in a beautiful pattern, even as we continually look for ways to mitigate our impact.

I’m particularly proud of our strong relationships—for instance with leather suppliers. One in particular, runs a globally recognized closed-loop system for creating leather upholstery. This leather is lightly processed and chrome-free. Subtle and natural textures make it look and feel like a premium leather should.

Many manufacturers hold a standard that everything must be about quality and craftsmanship. Although an important part of what we do each day, we must also believe that reaching the highest standards in these areas without considering the impact of the processes and materials we use isn’t nearly enough. Across the entire electric-car realm, sustainability should be a mission, not a phase. It must not be a passing interest or a marketing ploy. It’s truly necessary and important work we are all called upon to do for our planet, and one to which I am deeply committed.

Sue Magnusson, CMF, is design director with Lucid Motors