Ethos: New Tesla Upgrade Option Is a ‘Buttery Soft’ Sustainable Leather That Biodegrades In 8 Months
A new Tesla interior from material innovation company von Holzhausen is made from a bamboo-based sustainable leather that rivals conventional luxury interiors in feel and performance, but biodegrades in less than a year.
Banbū, the biodegradable bamboo leather from von Holzhausen, is now available for Tesla Model S, Model Y, or Model 3, as well as Cybertruck and Roadster interiors in a partnership with Tesla upgrade company, Unplugged Performance.
“Transitioning the world to sustainability is an important tenant of EV ownership and core to our philosophy,” Unplugged Performance says on its website. “High-tech sustainable materials have been developed by the von Holzhausen team to usher in a new era of luxury without compromise.”
The new bamboo leather is 83 percent plant-based, according to von Holzhausen. The company says bamboo is the “most renewable and resilient plant on the planet.” The vegan leather has been designed to biodegrade in a landfill in less than 250 days, offering a sustainable and “effortlessly sophisticated alternative to leather.”
In addition to the upgrade options, the vegan leather is also coming to a one-of-a-kind Tesla S Plaid; the updated car will be given away via the fundraising platform Omaze to benefit The JuJu Foundation, an organization founded by NFL wide receiver of the Kansas City Chiefs, JuJu Smith-Schuster, to support youth initiatives.
“We’re thrilled to be involved in this exciting collaboration between Unplugged Performance and Omaze and introduce Banbū Leather, our next-gen leather alternative, to a broader audience,” Vicki von Holzhausen, von Holzhausen CEO & Founder, said in a statement. Von Holzhausen is married to the Tesla Design Chief Franz von Holzhausen. “We believe that animal leather can be replaced by more sustainable and performance-oriented materials to help fight climate change,” she said.
Unplugged Performance describes the new vegan leather as having a “buttery-soft like lambskin” feel that is scratch-resistant, stain-resistant, water-resistant, and lightweight. And according to the blog Teslarati, it may be a welcome upgrade for Tesla’s luxury cross-over customers.
“If there is a legitimate criticism of Tesla’s premium electric cars, it is the fact that their interiors, while extremely comfortable and made from sustainable materials, are not necessarily on the same level as those offered by luxury automakers,” writes Simon Alvarez. “Compared to the interiors of cars like the Mercedes-Benz EQS or the Porsche Taycan, for example, the quality of the Model S’ interior could feel a notch or two lower.”
Tesla was one of the first luxury brands to offer fully vegan interiors, a move increasingly common as the electric car market heats up and consumers seek out the most sustainable option. Traditional luxury interiors made from animal leather are part of both animal agriculture and the fashion and textile industries’ large carbon footprints. Animal agriculture is responsible for more than 15 percent of global emissions, and the fashion and textile industries produce a further ten percent.
von Holzhausen’s sustainable leather
After spending years in the auto industry, von Holzhausen launched her eponymous materials company in 2015, earning widespread attention for its vegan leather. The company says it’s on a mission to make animal leather “extinct,” through its development of next-generation materials made from plants and recycled materials. The company says its science-based products, which also include Technik Leather and Struktur Leather, offer superior performance to animal leather, with a lower carbon footprint and a biodegradable design.
Sustainable materials have come to a number of luxury automakers. BMW recently announced a partnership with Mexican cactus leather producer, Desserto. The German automaker is also working with a material called Mirum. It can replicate the feel and function of animal-based leather, yarns, and foam.
Mercedes-Benz is also working with vegan leather materials in its electric vehicle designs including the EQXX concept car. Volvo also announced that all of its future electric vehicles will be made outfitted with vegan leather as it works to increase its sustainability metrics.
The vegan leather materials by von Holzhausen have appeared in handbags, backpacks, wallets, and belts as the fashion industry also looks to replace animal leather. Sustainable designer Stella McCartney recently announced her first bag made from mycelium—the root structure of mushrooms—will be available next month. French luxury house Hermès is also expected to release a mushroom leather bag later this year.
But animal leather may one day be as sustainable as the plant-based and fungi options. In May, Gucci parent company Kering announced it was exploring lab-grown leather with Leonardo DiCaprio-backed Vitrolabs. That technology, like cultivated meat, “grows” the animal hide cells in a laboratory setting, without the need for raising livestock. It would give fashion companies and car manufacturers a material that performs just like animal leather without the ethical or environmental issues.
According to Unplugged Performance, the bespoke von Holzhausen Tesla interiors are priced at $29,995 and are available to reserve now.