Eco-advanced vehicle interiors

Paul Boughton

Antje Lewe reveals why a new surface material represents a real alternative to leather

Today’s automotive designers find that ‘luxury’ is as much a part of their brief as ‘functionality’, and this is particularly true when discussing the world of automotive interiors. One challenge in recent years has been to develop surface materials that outperform leather yet retain that luxury feel.

Benecke-Kaliko’s new product family features the core product, Nobelis material, and various additional enhancement options. It looks like leather and the company says that it feels as pliant and soft to the touch as leather. However, Nobelis is hand-toolable and sewable. By taking the familiar Benova material to the next level, an extremely soft, sustainably eco-advanced and durable interior material was created to luxuriously elevate vehicle interiors.

Vehicles of all classes can be differentiated via their interior trim. At the same time, automakers have to be absolutely certain when it comes to the material properties in luxury and upper mid-range cars that the surface material is not too sensitive. Wear, heat and possibly inadequate care could otherwise too quickly leave the material looking tired. The new Nobelis surface material sets out to provide this certainty. With its durability, high-quality appearance and exclusive feel, it represents a sustainable alternative to leather. The quality fluctuations that can occur with leather are ruled out with this, and essential material properties have been raised to a new level.

Benecke-Kaliko’s developers have ensured that in Nobelis a premium surface product can be offered that is indistinguishable from leather on the component and also incorporates further outstanding material properties. The trim and upholstery material features low abrasion, resistance to high temperatures, and extremely low emissions. The annoyance of fogging, ie evaporation from the material that results in the often typical smell inside new cars, is thus a thing of the past. Nobelis is also especially flexible, particularly at very cold temperatures.

In addition, the new material also scores on the processing front with uniform mechanical properties and, unlike leather, ensures consistent quality of grain, form and colour.

Wear-resistant or heat-conductive

The premium trim and upholstery material can also be further augmented with functional enhancements of its product properties. One example these options is Nobelis Protect. This has been optimised for primary (A-surface) seat applications and combines comfort and attractiveness with a high level of surface protection. Specifically, Nobelis Protect offers exceptional abrasion performance and high resistance to surface cracks caused by extreme temperature changes and cold climates in general.

A future possibility is the ultrasoft, heat-conductive Nobelis Lux Hylite concept for almost all laminated soft-touch surfaces in automotive interiors. The instantly available heat not only increases the occupants’ feeling of wellbeing but also achieves up to 80% energy conservation in comparison to conventional heating solutions.

Benecke-Kaliko established the Enhance and FOCUS (feature optimised customer unique solutions) programme to offer customers the extra benefit of optimised product and service solutions. The guiding principle is to create high-quality, contemporary interior solutions whose functionality and ambiance enhance every vehicle. Each of the products from Benecke-Kaliko can be endowed with additional qualities on request, thereby creating an added value for customers. The additional functions offer them the opportunity to stand out from their competitors, strengthen their appeal as suppliers and increase customer satisfaction.

The enhancements will also help OEMs to meet particular national regulations – such as those pertaining to air quality in the passenger compartment in China. This ensures compliance by vehicle manufacturers with their social responsibility.

As soon as the necessary or desired enhancements are identified, the OEM customers also have the opportunity to make use of the benefits of the FOCUS portfolio. These added features express individuality, personality, lifestyle and values.

Both the product enhancements and the FOCUS portfolio help in increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the production processes of the Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs. The Protect enhancement, for instance, offers high scratch resistance and enables wastage as a result of damage during the handling, processing or fitting of the material to the component to be reduced.

Another example is a material for glue-less processing on the component that saves the Tier 1 supplier a work stage and also improves the feel, which therefore impresses the car buyer. The Surfvis 3D service solution, which saves time, effort and costs during product development, is also a FOCUS feature.

The optimised products now consistently include the additional designations Go!, Eco, Light, Protect, Lux and Hylite. The weight-reduced option Go! is an entry-level product in the product families. It also offers what it takes to boost the presence of Benecke-Kaliko’s premium surfaces on growth markets outside of Europe. And the materials provide low-end models a means of standing out in the crowd with high-quality interior materials.

Products with the Eco suffix are optimised in terms of environment-friendliness and environmental compatibility. This product family features extremely low emissions, low smell, renewable raw materials and contact allergen-free solutions. Light products such as Yorn Light, on the other hand, are extremely lightweight. Protect stands for scratch-resistant, stain-resistant, extra durable with superior cleanability.

The Lux category brings together materials with a particularly premium comfort feel and outstanding performance. The Hylite category also includes a wide range of possible enhancements, including translucent, luminescent and electrically conductive materials and materials with a metallic look. Benecke-Kaliko’s heatable seat materials are one such example.

FOCUS represents new, creative options for vehicle interiors. These include bi-tone materials, digital printing as the ultimate means to achieving individualisation, and gradient surface technology for interesting colour effects. Micro-perforation offers the benefits of standard perforation in a luxury finish, providing a way of differentiating by means of design and enabling a seat-cooling/ventilation function. This category also includes new product development services that utilise Benecke-Kaliko’s exclusive Surfvis 3D simulation technology.

For more information, visit

Antje Lewe is with ContiTech