Redesigning auto interiors with BMW

What is the highest calling of (and the highest bar for) a leather-like material? We would contend the interior of a BMW is a pretty good answer.

We started working with BMW in 2021 to develop a MIRUM® SKU for future vehicles. It was a unique opportunity to partner on the development of the world’s first petrochemical- and animal-free leather alternative for use in automotives.

BMW provided us with a list of technical requirements specifications to reach comparable performance to the polyurethanes and polymer-coated leathers typically used in automotive applications. Through the two-year development cycle, we’ve worked closely with the BMW team through 50+ product delivery cycles and 500+ recipe and formulation changes to hit these performance specifications.

For a material like MIRUM® (i.e., soft material used for seats, arm rests, etc.), this development cycle would typically take five years from concept to technical approval for application in a specific model/series of car. BMW began initial prototyping with MIRUM® in August 2021, and we received technical approval in late November 2023. This pretty extraordinary speed is due to tens of thousands of hours of work by NFW team members, countless experiments, and the dedicated support from BMW’s project team.

On their blog, BMW writes, "While there is a burgeoning ecosystem of startups making alternative leather using a variety of technologies (e.g. mycelium-based, recycled leather, specific plant-based, lab-grown), they all have shortcomings in one (or more) of the following areas:

  1. Perform comparably to leather (durability, resistance to abrasion, color-fastness, etc.).

  2. Cost-competitive to existing leathers (i.e. animal or synthetic leathers).

  3. Scalable to produce meaningful volumes for a number of customer verticals, particularly automotive.

  4. Environmentally friendly with minimal carbon footprint.

NFW so far is the only company that checked all the boxes."

In March 2024, BMW shared the first look at the Neue Klasse, which will feature BMW's biobased interior material Verdana, made with MIRUM.®

Throughout the coming months, we’ll be working through the next phase for getting MIRUM® into the automotive supply chain and ultimately into BMWs.

Nothing requires durability and quality like an automotive interior: cars are exposed to extreme and wildly divergent environmental stressors. The same model of car must be able to happily bake in the Texas sun and also weather winters in the Swiss Alps while handling heavy daily use for many years.

Developing a MIRUM® recipe worthy of automotive interiors advances the science behind our entire platform and helps us create beautiful, durable materials for all sorts of applications and industries.

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