Seat for the Planet: innovation for sustainability
At our research and development centers, a project that has been in the works for several months called “Seat for the Planet” is bearing fruit. Faurecia Seating (FAS) engineers are innovating to advance sustainability through a holistic approach which includes the frame, foam, covers and accessories. FAS’s sustainability innovation strategy goes beyond OEMs’ specifications and targets, and seeks to improve industrial processes, materials used and the seats’ design to reduce the CO2 footprint of its systems throughout their life cycle. Seat for the Planet is part of a cross-Business Group initiative to develop sustainable materials and circular economies in the automotive industry.
“Sustainability is fast becoming a crucial driver of consumers’ spending habits and choices, and this applies to mobility solutions” said Etienne Sorlet, FAS Global Marketing Director. “Through our “Seat for the Planet” innovation portfolio we want to lead the market.”
The FAS teams have identified five ‘golden rules’ to guide “Seat for the Planet” innovation: use sustainable materials (natural, with lower CO2 footprints, recycled or recyclable), use less (and reduce waste in manufacturing), avoid mixed materials, center consumer experiences and needs, and design for easy assembly and disassembly.
Fabrice Charras, complete seat innovation project manager said: “Seat for the Planet solutions facilitate recycling, reconditioning and refurbishing, thus ensuring that our products can enter a circular economy once this takes off.”
Steel and plastics, materials used in seating, together represent almost 50% of the Group’s CO2 emissions. Seat for the Planet is thus particularly relevant to the Group’s CO2 neutrality objective. Engineers are working on improving how we process steel and are developing new manufacturing processes to reduce both waste and the amount of energy required (using also decarbonated energy when possible).
The seat’s foams and covers are also up for review. Anne-Sophie Cabouillet, Covers & Foam Innovation project manager, is working on developing seat foams that use recycled, recyclable and biosourced materials: “Easier to separate for recycling, bio-composites use nonfood agricultural materials such as hemp stems. Using biosourced materials allows us to reduce the use of nonrenewable materials by up to 50%.”
Benoit Scheer, Cover & Foam Solutions innovating manager who is working on low-carbon textiles for seat covers and alternatives to leather, added: “Integrating recycled and recyclable materials in our covers will not only help reduce emissions related to our products but also support the development of a robust circular economy for seating which will include all components.”
Seat for the Planet also plans to offer OEMs seating options with minimalist, pared-down designs for specific vehicle lines. By using only as much material as necessary, designers have saved 30mm in the seat backrest’s width and reduced 12 % in textile surface, leaving some structural parts visible as part of a distinct visual identity. The seat uses less steel in combination with semi-structural foam; the covers are made from recycled PET.
The first generation of complete seats with all of these solutions and features offers average reductions of 30 % in CO2 emissions and 10% in weight compared with conventional seats, without sacrificing Faurecia’s priorities: comfort and safety.