As we all know, veganism is on the rise and is seeping into every industry. Between 2017 and 2018, UK web searches for “vegan fashion” and “vegan clothes” increased by 39 percent and “vegan make-up” by 20 percent, while the grocer Sainsbury’s has seen a 24 percent increase in searches for vegan products. In a similar vein, people searching for "vegan cars” have likely increased over the same period of time. Vegans are now thinking more conscientiously about whether their vehicles conform to their ethics. If you're in the market for a car but feel like you don’t have enough information to make a vegan-appropriate decision, here are some things to look for.
It’s taken a while, but some automakers are now installing leather-free interiors in certain models. For example, Tesla’s Model 3 interior is fully vegan-friendly. The seats, gearshift, and even the steering wheel are made of artificial leather. At first, only the seats and gearshift were artificial, but animal rights advocates put sufficient pressure on Elon Musk for a vegan steering wheel, which the company unveiled in September 2019. Other vehicles with 100 percent artificial interiors include the Chevrolet Silverado and Kia Rio. Many cars claim to be leather-free but, like Tesla’s first Model 3, this excludes the steering wheel or driveshaft or both.
Exhaust emissions contribute to the degradation of the planet and thus cause excess harm to our animal brethren. So Vegan car shoppers should be conscious about whether their chosen vehicle is emissions-free. A truly emissions-free car is fully-electric, like the Renault Twizy. Thankfully many cars with high ratings and positive consumer reports are emissions-free or emissions-minimal. Hybrids fit this latter definition. However, hybrids are far from 100 percent vegan, but can any car really be 100 percent vegan?
The Myth of Vegan Cars
It’s pretty likely that no car is truly 100-percent vegan-friendly. This is because animal fats are used in the production of steel and rubber, two materials that compose virtually every vehicle. Also, fully-electric automakers have to sacrifice a lot of carbon to manufacture batteries large enough to power their vehicles. These facts shouldn’t dissuade vegan car shoppers. By choosing a car whose ecological impact is minimized they are doing the best they can in a vegan-unnormative system.
A vegan who picks a vehicle that is both leather- and emissions-free, and who understands that a 100-percent vegan car is a myth and that an approximation is okay, will be able to translate their ethics to the road.