Beyond Leather — Porsche x Natural Fiber Welding

Porsche AG
Feb 19 · 3 min read

Plants instead of plastic. This is the formula that makes Natural Fiber Welding’s product so special. It is a leather substitute based on vegetables that is 100 per cent recyclable — without compromising on quality and appearance. The US startup company has developed a product that could fundamentally change not just the fashion industry, but also the future of car interiors.

On Expo Day 7 of STARTUP AUTOBAHN , Europe’s largest open innovation platform, Natural Fiber Welding, in cooperation with the Indian automotive supplier Motherson, presented a pilot project together with Porsche: a trim for a Taycan door — with a vegan leather substitute.

Sustainable development

Sustainability is a strategic corporate goal for Porsche. Since 2019, the sports car manufacturer has set binding sustainability targets for the entire company. From 1 July 2019, all of the company’s current and future suppliers and partners will have another binding criterion — the S-Rating — in the award process. S stands for sustainability. “As a global company, we have firmly anchored sustainability in our corporate strategy,” says Daniela Rathe, Head of Politics and External Relations at Porsche. “We have set ourselves comprehensive goals in this area and are intensively concerned with the question of how we shape the future of mobility, and therefore life on earth.”

Natural Fiber Welding processes natural agricultural products such as cork powder — a by-product of the wine industry — and coconut fibers into a durable leather which can be used again and again. This enables a circulatory system in which natural fibers are fused together without the use of synthetic adhesives.

Plants instead of plastic

The startup has named its product “Mirum”. Unlike many leather alternatives, it is produced without plastic and is competitive in terms of price. The young company emphasizes that “Mirum” is, above all, flexible. Texture, pattern, colour, from light to matt, is customizable and can be made in any size.

The founder and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding is Luke Haverhals. The PhD-graduate chemist began developing natural materials at the US Naval Academy over a decade ago. He founded the startup in 2015, and it has its headquarters in Peoria, Illinois, a three-hour drive southwest of Chicago.

In the STARTUP AUTOBAHN program, Natural Fiber Welding has now developed a pilot product in cooperation with Motherson. Together, they have produced a door cover for the Porsche Taycan which does not compromise on quality and feel. “A Porsche is an iconic product,” says Oihana Elizalde, General Manager of Natural Fiber Welding’s Mirum Business Unit. “To have the trust of a partner like Porsche is a really nice opportunity for us.”

Under the motto “The Drive of Silicon Valley at the Center of Engineering Art”, Porsche is a partner of Europe’s largest innovation platform Startup Autobahn. The aim is to bring innovative startups from all over the world, along with their ideas on the subject of mobility, to Stuttgart and to work with them in order to turn innovations into reality. In this three-part series, we introduce new startup partners that presented their projects for Porsche at Expo Day 7 in Stuttgart.

About this publication: Where innovation meets tradition. There’s more to Porsche than sports cars — we’re tackling new challenges, develop digital products and think digital with focus on the customer. On our Medium blog, we tell these stories. It´s about our #nextvisions, smart technologies and the people that drive our digital journey. Please follow us on Twitter (Porsche Digital, Next Visions), Instagram (Porsche Digital, Next Visions, Porsche Newsroom) and LinkedIn (Porsche AG, Porsche Digital) for more.

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