A vegan is a person who chooses not to eat foods containing animal products. Vegans are similar to vegetarians in that both avoid meat. However, while vegetarians consume eggs and dairy, vegans abstain from all animal-based foods.
Some vegans make this choice for health reasons. Others – known as ethical vegans – adopt their diet based on a desire to protect the well-being of animals. Many ethical vegans also avoid animal products in the goods they consume, and they opt to stay away from items such as leather shoes and belts.
According to data published by V Between The Lines, a vegan-focused online resource, the numbers of vegans and vegetarians has grown from 1 percent of the U.S. population in 2009 to 5 percent today, a mere 7 years later. Of that 5 percent total, half are vegans. While vegans represent a small percentage of the population, they are a very passionate minority, and many will go to great lengths to seek out products that are in step with their beliefs.
Many vegans put their automotive purchases under the same microscope as all their other purchases, and they choose to buy cars that avoid using animal products. For vegans, the key offender in most cars is leather.
No Leather Often Means Fewer Luxury Amenities
Leather is a popular choice with many car shoppers, and leather upholstery is standard in the higher trim levels of some of the best-selling models on the market. For this reason, abstaining from leather often means foregoing all the high-end perks and amenities that come with top-of-the-line trims.
Even if you skip the leather upholstery, many cars come standard with leather-wrapped steering wheels. In some cases, it’s possible to special order models that are completely free of leather, but this adds a tedious and time-consuming element to your car purchase.
It becomes even harder to make a vegan choice if you’re purchasing a luxury car. Leather and luxury go hand-in-hand for many automakers and car shoppers. This material is a staple in many of the most premium brands, and it sometimes shows up even in base models. Leather is standard on premium models such as the Lexus LX 570 and Audi A7.
Earth-Friendly Vegan Choices
Still, there are choices out there that deliver superb quality and amenities in packages that shun animal products. The two vehicles listed below are great car choices for vegans. They offer a good array of safety features. ample amenities and leather-free cabins. As an added bonus, they also come with eco-friendly powertrains.
2016 Tesla Model X. Tesla’s Model X SUV is a triumph of innovation. This hauler has the kind of extensive range that was a pipe dream for electric cars just a few short years ago, and it’s capable of traveling up to 289 miles between charges.
A single-speed transmission is employed, and it’s paired with electric motors offering up to 532 horsepower. This kind of muscle facilitates prodigious acceleration, and Tesla’s SUV is capable of reaching 60 mph from a standstill in a mere 2.9 seconds. The Model X is the first electric vehicle with towing capacity, and it can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Tesla’s Model X is made with cool-looking falcon-wing doors that allow occupants to easily access second- and third-row seats even when the vehicle is wedged into a tight parking spot. Tesla claims the Model X offers the largest all-glass windshield in production, and it’s a feature that affords the vehicle’s occupants expansive and unobstructed vistas of the passing landscape and the skies above. The SUV is offered with five, six or seven seats spanning two or three rows. Interior storage capacity with the six-seat configuration stands at a roomy 77 cubic feet, and there’s also a front trunk available with space for luggage or golf bags. Standard features include keyless access, an automatic rear liftgate, LED headlamps and a navigation system.
The Model X hasn’t been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but it comes with all the latest safety technology. Parking sensors, side collision avoidance and blind spot warning are all standard.
Three upholstery choices are offered. Two are leather, but if you choose the Ultra-White seating option, you’ll get a vehicle that’s vegan from top to bottom. The seats, steering wheel and gear shift are all made with materials that are both stain-resistant and leather-free.
Choosing the vegan interior requires no compromises, and Model X vehicles with vegan upholstery are offered with all the amenities provided by trims draped in leather. Available options include heated seats, a heated steering wheel and an upgraded sound system.
2017 Toyota Prius. Hybrid vehicles are now a familiar part of the automotive landscape, and much of the credit for this goes to the Toyota Prius. Launched in 2001, the model has been an enduring hit with consumers seeking a choice offering value and exceptional fuel efficiency, and it’s long been the best-selling hybrid in the U.S. market.
Under the hood is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with a pair of electric motors and a continuously variable transmission. Total output is 121 horsepower, and the Prius offers fuel economy of up to 56 mpg combined.
Standard features include LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker sound system. Available features include blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. The Prius seats five and offers cargo capacity of up to 27.4 cubic feet.
In government crash tests, the 2017 Prius scored a perfect five-star overall rating. Standard safety features include adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic high beams and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. The 2016 Prius was rated a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS.
The base Prius comes with cloth seats, and upper trim levels skip leather in favor of upholstery made from Softex, a leather-like synthetic material that is easy to clean and spill-resistant. Softex weighs half as much as genuine leather and is made in a way that generates fewer CO2 emissions and volatile organic compounds than standard synthetic leather. Vegans will be pleased to know Softex contains no animal-based materials.
Cars of the Future
Tesla’s leather-free Model X became a reality after vegan shareholders made the request at the carmaker’s annual meeting.
Car buyers speak with their wallets. Though vegans are a small minority, their numbers are growing. In the years to come, look for carmakers to heed the demands of this burgeoning segment with a broader range of vegan-friendly choices.