Lotus made a big splash in New York City recently with the global premiere of the Emeya electric performance saloon. The Chinese-made EV could rival the Tesla Model S and the Porsche Taycan Turbo among others when it makes its stateside debut late in 2024. However, the Emeya is more than just a performance vehicle.

Sustainable materials are among the biggest highlights of the new Emeya. The Hethel-based carmaker claims to be the first to use a type of recycled cloth in its interior, along with other environmentally friendly materials. To find out how substantial the innovations are, InsideEVs spoke to Marie-Camille Lecoq, the head of sustainability and materials at Lotus.

By skipping the labour-intensive process of using traditional recycled fibre materials, Lotus made room to incorporate its own methods, indicated Lecoq. “We are using recycled fashion industry garments, and we chose to combine those materials and create a new yarn for the interior, and we are pleased with its premium look,” she said.

Lotus Emeya (2024)

“We also have a PVC-free cabin, which is quite rare today,” claims Lecoq. Greenpeace has labelled polyvinyl chloride materials as “poison plastics” as they can release hazardous chemicals and potentially contaminate air, water, and food if not disposed of in an environmentally conscious manner.

Lecoq stopped short of sharing the proportion of sustainable materials in the Emeya’s cabin but indicated that it was significant.

We have a full PU [polyurethane] interior. Every part of the car you touch is PU. And also textiles. PU is a lot lighter than leather. You can gain up to 20-30 percent [in weight savings]. We are covering pretty much all the surfaces with premium and sustainable materials.

Carmakers have been commonly using PU for decades in seats, headrests, armrests, and even instrument panels for comfort, durability, and weight savings. Even though toxicity and recyclability isn’t an issue with PU, some reports suggest that it might not be entirely emissions-free through its production cycle.

Lotus Emeya (2024)

Although, Lotus seems to be far from developing a 100 percent sustainable interior. Talking about sustainability, the brand is only covering the “A surfaces,” which is what customers touch and feel on a regular basis, indicated Lecoq. The “B surfaces” that form the inside layer might still be made from regular materials.

Nappa leather appears to be optional on the Emeya, which conflicts with the brand’s sustainability targets.

I don't think leather is bad. It depends on your supplier, the quality, and also how you treat animals. It’s a bioproduct, there is no chemical applied to it, so there is space for it. It can't be [used] 100 percent in the world we live in so we have to treat it respectfully.

Lotus might have some catching up to do compared to its Geely-owned sister brands. Volvo EVs are already leather-free. The EX90 uses over 50 kilograms of recycled and bio-based materials. Polestar models are available with a 100 percent vegan interior, although Nappa leather that “adheres to strict animal welfare standards” is optional.

That said, Lecoq’s design team faced challenges while collaborating internationally.

The car is built in China. By sourcing materials from the UK, you have to ship everything across the planet. So I think that's also the internal question we had if it made sense. It’s also partnership and collaboration, and not just the design team pushing for it. Everyone needs to be on board with it including, purchasing, engineering, and suppliers.

Moreover, Lotus developed the aforementioned recycled yarn at a relatively accelerated pace.

It took us three years but it's quite fast. Companies can take up to 10 years to implement something. What I was impressed with in China is the speed. It’s how quickly they can do things there. I was used to five or six years to get something done.

Gallery: Lotus Emeya (2024)

With over 17,000 orders worldwide for Emira and Eletre combined, 2023 is one of the biggest years for the brand. However, we’ll have to wait until next year for a clearer picture of how the Emeya will fare in an increasingly competitive luxury performance saloon space, and if the brand can stick to its promised timeline of late 2024 for availability.