Paint made from rice husk ash. Self–regenerating tyres containing spider silk. Dashboards carved from 5000 year old riverwood, dredged from the fenlands of East Anglia. All sustainable visions for the future, but the future is closer than you think at Bentley Motors. Following on from the unveiling of their all-electric concept car in July 2019, Bentley Mulliner, the bespoke arm of the Crewe-based automotive manufacturer, announced in March 2020 that they would soon commence production on the Bacalar, using two of the above sustainable materials. Hint: it’s not the spider silk.
While Bentley Mulliner can trace its roots back to the 1500s, when the company’s original focus was customising luxurious, horse-drawn carriages, the Bacalar’s use of ethically-sourced materials is definitely pointing towards a sustainable future. While only 12 of these models are being hand crafted, the fact that they are using these materials just eight months after first being previewed on the EXP 100 GT, is a big leap forward in Bentley’s goal to becoming the world’s most sustainable luxury automotive manufacturer.
The paintwork on the Bacalar has been specially chosen for its sustainable characteristics, using rice husk ash, a by-product from the rice industry. Using this material does not only reduce rice husk landfill waste, but in keeping with Bentley Mulliner’s luxury credentials, it also provides a rich, magnetic finish. Inside the cabin, the wraparound dashboard is cut from riverwood, from naturally fallen trees that have been preserved for 5,000 years in peat bogs, lakes and rivers found in the Fenlands of East Anglia. Not only is this a sustainable choice of material, but it also has a striking black aesthetic, the result of lying untouched in wet earth for thousands of years. Repurposing such a rare and unique wood into a rare and unique vehicle, like the Bacalar, is the perfect marriage of sustainability and luxury.
But it’s not just Bentley and the automotive industry where we are seeing action towards a more sustainable future. Unveiled at the G7 summit in August 2019, by French President Emmanuel Macron and Kering chairman François-Henri Pinault, was the ‘Fashion Pact’ – a plan to reduce the environmental impact of the global fashion industry. Signed by 32 companies, including some of the biggest names in luxury such as Prada, Burberry and Chanel, the three main objectives of the pact are to reduce global warming, restore biodiversity, and protect the world’s oceans. By 2030, each company has also pledged to switch its operations to 100% renewable energy.
At Bentley, they have been using renewable energy for over seven years. Over 20,000 solar panels were fitted to the roof of the Crewe factory in 2013, and in May 2019 Bentley reinforced its commitment to sustainable energy with the installation of the UK’s largest solar car port. The additional 10,000 solar panels, covering a massive 1278 parking spaces, means all electricity used to manufacture every Bentley is solar powered or certified green. In recognition of this, in October 2019, Bentley Motors was awarded the PAS 2060 certification by the Carbon Trust for carbon neutrality, making them the UK’s first carbon neutral luxury automotive factory.
Following this, in November 2019, to celebrate their centenary year, and as part of National Tree Week, Bentley also planted 100 native British trees around their Crewe site. As Peter Bosch, Member of the Board for Manufacturing, explains:
“Sustainably-sourced wood has been one of Bentley’s core interior components since our beginnings 100 years ago…and we wanted to plant trees around the site that are not only native British species, but reflective of the interiors that we produce in our cars. Trees play a vital role in tackling climate change because they help to improve air quality, absorb CO2 and increase oxygen. We’ve chosen the locations carefully to ensure they…can be enjoyed by both our colleagues and the local community”.Peter Bosch, Member of the Board for Manufacturing for Bentley Motors
As well as becoming a sustainable manufacturing operation, and a greener place to work for their employees, the recent production of the Bentayga Hybrid car represents Bentley’s first step towards full electrification. This SUV combines the serenity and effiency of silent motoring on electric with effortless performance from the V6 petrol engine. Looking to the future, Bentley will offer hybrid versions across their whole range by 2023, and a full electric vehicle by 2025.
As both the luxury automotive and luxury fashion industry look towards a more sustainable future, it would seem the phrase ‘sustainable luxury’ is no longer considered an oxymoron. The less desirable connotations associated with a luxury product, such as excess and waste, are a thing of the past, and we can now look forward to a more ethically luxurious future.